WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the horrific abuse and slaying of a 3-year-old boy whose body was found encased in concrete in the laundry room of his home four months after his death.
Stephen Bodine, 41, of Wichita, was convicted Wednesday in the May 2017 death of Evan Brewer. Bodine was also found guilty of child abuse, aggravated child endangerment and two counts of kidnapping. He will be sentenced December 17.
Bodine faces a potential sentence of life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 years on the murder conviction.
Prosecutors called dozens of witnesses and presented more than 550 pieces of evidence during six days of trial, including parts of the concrete tomb found in the rental home where the boy had lived with his mother, Miranda Miller, and Bodine. Jurors saw videos and photos showing Evan being abused, including footage of him chained and naked in a basement, being berated by Bodine and Miller, and forced to stand in a corner for hours.
Carlo Brewer, Evan's father, celebrated the verdict but said his joy was tempered by sadness because of the cruelty his son had endured. Brewer had been fighting for custody of Evan in the months leading up to his death, and authorities had been alerted at least six times that Evan was being abused.
"(Evan) didn't get to have the imagination like other children, where they think there's monsters in their closets or under their beds," Brewer said. "He had real monsters."
Miller is also charged with murder in her son's death. In exchange for testifying against Bodine, she will be allowed to plead guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder.
Much of the evidence at trial came from a cache of 16,000 photos and video files collected by the couple's home surveillance system. In one video, Bodine and Miller are heard chastising Evan over the course of several hours, less than two months before he was killed.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said the jury performed an extraordinary service to the community for enduring the sometimes grisly testimony.
"I can't really overstate what a difficult task it was to sit and absorb the kind of wretched details of how this little boy lost his life and the role this defendant had in it," Bennett said.
Miller testified that Bodine had been punishing Evan for not eating on May 19, 2017, when he took the screaming boy into the bathroom. She said he soon came out with her son's wet and lifeless body in his arms.
She said during a preliminary hearing that a few days later Bodine told her that he wanted "to take care of Evan before he started to smell." She said he mixed up several bags of concrete and buried the boy's body in it.
Evan was discovered entombed in the concrete in early September, after Miller and Bodine had moved out of the property.
An autopsy couldn't determine the cause and manner of Evan's death because his body was so badly decomposed by the time he was chipped out of the block of concrete. He had Benadryl in his system, and Miller said she thinks Bodine sickened him in the days leading up to his death by force-feeding him large amounts of salt.
Bodine's own daughter, Samantha Johnson, also testified about the physical abuse she suffered from her father, saying her experience was similar to Evan's.
Brewer said he hopes his son's death will lead to more efforts to confront child abuse.
"Take a step back and question what you're doing as a parent, question if it's the right way to discipline or not or if it's abuse," Brewer said. "Because it's got to stop. It's got to stop."