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Jayden Robker said he was being abused multiple times, state marked him as 'safe,' reports say

Reports detail abuse allegations, timeline leading up to Jayden's death
Posted: 7:26 PM, Nov 21, 2023
Updated: 2023-11-22 09:48:41-05
Jayden Robker, 13

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The KSHB 41 I-Team's Sarah Plake obtained social services reports that shed light on what 13-year-old Jayden Robker's life was like before his body was found in a pond in March.

The teen told a Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division worker multiple times he didn't feel safe in his home because his stepfather, Eric Givens, abused him.

RELATED: New documents shed light on 13-year-old Jayden Robker's disappearance, death

Prior to Jayden's death, the Children's Division (CD) was alerted to allegations two times — in 2021 and in 2022.

Children's Division visits Jayden's home

Jayden ran away from home on Dec. 1, 2021, because he said Givens would hit and punch him "everywhere on his body."

The 2021 child abuse/neglect summary states that CD "asked him if he feels safe at home and he said no."

Jayden told the state worker he hadn't been to school in over a month because he had to take care of Givens' other three children at home.

His mother, Heather Robker, was pregnant at the time, and Jayden was worried he'd have to take care of the newborn as well.

He went to stay with his grandmother, Heather Robker's mother, who expressed concerns Heather Robker was being kept from her family as Givens had "brainwashed" her.

When CD talked to Givens, he denied abusing Jayden and accused him of lying. Givens said Jayden was upset about doing chores.

In the report, Givens chalked the situation up to having different parenting styles than Heather Robker, which was why "there are so many issues with Jayden."

The case worker planned to close the case because it was agreed upon that Jayden would continue to stay at his grandma's house until Heather Robker and Givens could work something out at home.

The worker gave Heather Robker and Givens resources for counseling, but it's unclear if the couple ever followed through.

By Dec. 27, 2021, Heather Robker called CD back, saying things were going well and she and Givens were still working things out.

In the report, the case worker said, "Jayden has not had a consistent father figure in the home, so he has had a hard time adjusting to Eric trying to fill that role, which is why they believe he ran away."

No other plan of action was taken at that time.

Children's Division called again

By the beginning of 2022, CD was called again.

The division's report, which started on Jan. 20, 2022, stated someone called the CD hotline saying Heather Robker wanted Jayden back at home.

The caller reiterated the same abuse allegations as before, that Jayden did not want to go home because he did not feel safe.

Jayden said one time, Givens hit him so severely that he had to get stitches at the hospital.

At the time of the report, Jayden was settling in with his uncle, Derek Robker. Derek Robker and Jayden's grandmother were taking care of him and enrolled him in school.

Derek Robker told CD his sister, Heather Robker, said she wanted to pick Jayden up from school because it was time he came home.

He explained Heather Robker's motive was to bring Jayden back home the second the CD case was closed.

"CD reiterated that our reason for closing the case was because Heather agreed that Jayden would stay with Derek until she and Eric were able to work on things and he felt safe going home," per the report.

The 2022 child abuse/neglect summary stated CD reached out to Heather Robker.

The case worker told her had they known her motive was to get Jayden back as soon as the case was closed, the division would've kept it open to ensure Jayden was safe.

During this conversation with Heather Robker, Givens got on the phone and was “very agitated.” He said he didn't want anything to do with CD's investigation, to which the case worker reiterated the investigation had to do with his alleged abuse.

Later that afternoon, the report said Heather Robker called CD again, and it seemed as if she'd been crying. She told the case worker the situation was causing too many issues with her family and Jayden couldn't just stay with Derek Robker.

The case worker said they'd visit the next day and advised Heather Robker to hold off on any "rash decisions" until everyone was clear-minded.

CD visited Derek Robker's home the same afternoon and spoke with him and the grandmother.

Both continued to express concerns about Jayden's safety, asking the case worker if Heather Robker would sign a power of attorney so Derek could take over guardianship of Jayden.

Jayden was also at the home and spoke with the case worker, who noted, "CD asked Jayden if he were to go home tomorrow if he felt that he would be in immediate danger, and he said yes.”

Guardianship disagreement

On Jan. 21, 2022, the case worker visited Heather Robker and Givens' home.

The report said Givens was, again, uncooperative and "resistant" to CD's feedback and suggestions, though Heather Robker seemed receptive.

Heather Robker, however, would not sign over guardianship to either her mother or Derek Robker.

CD explained there needed to be a long-term safety plan. Heather Robker said the only way she'd agree was if her mother did not apply for custody.

However, the case worker told Heather Robker that if Jayden came home, CD would continue to receive calls about the same concerns and CD would still be involved.

Ultimately, it was decided Jayden would continue staying at his uncle's for the "foreseeable future."

That report was eventually closed and Jayden was marked "safe."

Jayden's disappearance

Jayden eventually went back to his mother's house, though the exact date is unclear, and disappeared in February 2023. His body was found in a pond about a mile away in March.

Heather Robker reported him missing, saying the last time she and Givens saw Jayden was on Thursday, Feb. 2.

Additional reports obtained by the I-Team show law enforcement was suspicious of Heather Robker and Givens' behavior from the day Jayden's body was found in the pond.

A majority of the reports are redacted but they show the timeline of how the state social services supervisor and Kansas City, Missouri, police communicated via phone and email about Jayden's death investigation.

Death investigation

In March, KCPD interviewed Givens, and according to reports, “they feel his statement was rehearsed and that Det. Campbell stated he had to sugarcoat their conversations in his interview with him to get consent to get in the house.”

By March 7, KCPD had checked the family's house and three sheds and found nothing. They searched a canvass area. A cadaver dog searched the home and scent dogs searched around the car but didn't hit on anything.

Still, the detectives felt Givens was changing his story a little bit each time. Overall, Givens said on Feb. 2, Jayden came home from school but left about seven minutes later, heading out the door around 2:30 p.m. with his skateboard.

When interviewed again, KCPD said Givens "kept to the rehearsed story but when asked for more detailed information he would get upset and yell." Eventually, detectives said Givens stopped cooperating, threatening to get an attorney.

Detectives also interviewed Heather Robker a second time, where they asked if she'd consent to a polygraph test and a search of her phone.

Her polygraph results were inconclusive.

When they searched her phone, detectives found Heather Robker had "deleted the calls and texts from the week before Jayden went missing and the week of him disappearing."

On March 13, CD called Jayden's school to verify his attendance. The school said he was there on Feb. 2, 2023, but the documents also say he was marked "as verified absence out with parent by his mother Heather."

On March 16, the social services supervisor detailed their conversation with the medical examiner about Jayden's autopsy.

According to the documents the I-Team obtained, no foul play was suspected and the medical examiner said she would likely have to rule Jayden's death undetermined.

The medical examiner told the social services supervisor that Jayden's body didn't have any trauma, except for a "small hematoma on the back of his head/scalp."

The medical examiner thought it could possibly be due to Jayden falling.

The documents say law enforcement considered that maybe Jayden was trying to skateboard or walk across the ice on the pond at the time and fell, although they never found his skateboard.

Jayden was found in the same clothes he was last seen in.

According to the medical examiner, there was very little water in his stomach but signs of drowning are not always easy to detect.

The medical examiner said Jayden could have been in the water the whole time he was missing.

Expert reviews documents, weighs in on case

The KSHB I-Team on Tuesday asked Nicholas Simons-Bracken, a UMKC visiting assistant teaching professor and licensed clinical social worker with years of experience in the field, to review these latest DSS documents.

He questioned the agency's determination that Jayden was safe.

"Jayden didn't appear to be safe, as the safety plan was only as good as the agreement between the mother and the other caregivers," he said. "As indicated at the end of the first complaint, the reason for the second complaint is that mom wanted him [Jayden] back. This isn't always the best route."

He added: "They [DSS] signified that he [Jayden] was safe in the report. I wouldn't have believed that he was safe. There were no services provided and no follow-up to see if the mom would participate in services by herself."

Simons-Bracken also said DSS should have requested medical records to follow up on the stitches to Jayden's ear.

"Actually, this would and could be signified as head trauma, and if Eric did this, this is reportable child abuse," he told the I-Team. "I would have been curious to review those medical records and surprised they didn't ask. They contacted the Juvenile Office on the first case but didn't on the second case."

Should DSS have opened a case based on these reports of abuse?

"I still believe that a case could have been opened to maintain and ensure that services were provided and these issues were rectified," Simons-Bracken said. "They didn't assess the other children in the home, or we could not see that in the reports. We have to assume that if one child is being abused, interviewing all children is necessary."

Simons-Bracken also noted that Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) could be a factor in Jayden's case because "of the concerns that were indicated in the reports." For example, Jayden told authorities that his mom is aware of the abuse, but is scared of her husband (Eric).