This case was one I had not heard of before a listener suggested that I cover it. The events and details are heinous, tragic, upsetting, and once again, could have been completely prevented.
Today, we’ll discuss the torture, abuse, murder, and horrific disposal of seven-year-old Adrian Jones. This is another story out of Kansas, and there are so many people in this story who failed little Adrian to name them all. So many people in this child’s life failed him, harmed him, or knew about what was happening to him. This was failure, negligence, and pathological apathy on the part of those who knew yet did nothing.
- Adrian lived with his biological mother and siblings in Lawrence, Kansas, for the first two years of his life. In 2012, Adrian was removed from his mother’s care by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) after little Adrian was found unsupervised at home. This poor child had a short life that was filled with abuse. He wouldn’t have been removed from her home if she hadn’t been negligent or abusive in some way.
- DCF then sent Adrian to live with his father, Michael Jones, and his wife, Heather Jones.
Hotline Calls Roll In
- Only three months later, hotline calls were flooding in about how Michael had guns everywhere and how Heather was seen to be high on drugs, in addition to other concerns for Adrian’s safety. The pair had other children living in their home in addition to Adrian, and there were reports made about the other children also showing signs of starvation, weight loss, and physical injuries.
- Some of the hotline calls that were made stated that Adrian was being beaten and choked by Michael and Heather. Additionally, one caller told child services that Adrian had been spanked so hard on one occasion that his buttocks were bleeding. CPS is going to do something, right? They’re going to step in and save this boy and these other children, right?
- The Washington Post also reports that “The family temporarily moved to Missouri, where hotline calls continued — one caller reporting that Adrian’s stepmother would beat “the living daylights out of the kids for no reason” and would sell “meth” out of the home, the lawsuit stated.”
Social Services Involvement
- In 2013, a Missouri Children’s Division social worker and a police officer spoke with Adrian. He was honest, told them that “Daddy kicks me” and that he “Keeps hitting me in the head and punches me in the stomach and mom keeps pulling on my ears, and it really hurts.” He also told them that Heather and Michael “Always lock me in my room. I have to sleep without a pillow and blanket.” Adrian also told them that Michael would kick him so hard in the back of his little head that a “little bone come out.”
- Medical staff and investigators even examined little Adrian. The Missouri Children’s Division decided to simply provide “in-home services” to the family even though Michael and Heather refused to cooperate. In fact, it gets even worse. Adrian was the one who was treated as the problem by CPS. He underwent treatment for “disruptive behavior and “parent-child relationship problems.” The Washington Post reports that “His father and stepmother reported that Adrian frequently wet the bed, stole and hoarded food, picked at sores and lit fires — characteristics that the lawsuit says are common in young victims of child abuse.”
- At one point, Michael and Heather even asked authorities to remove Adrian from their own home, yet Adrian remained. Even though the Children’s Division knew abuse was taking place, they left Adrian there to starve and die. There was plenty of evidence to corroborate Adrian’s version of events and evidence of neglect. In fact, Adrian’s own grandmother reported his abuse to DCF twice before he was murdered.
- More from the Washington Post reveals that “For a period of several months in 2014, Adrian was placed in a residential treatment center in Grandview, Mo., having been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was discharged on Sept. 4, 2014, on the condition that his father and stepmother follow an “aftercare plan,” including enrollment in school and therapy. The center did not follow up with Adrian after he was discharged, the lawsuit alleges.
- A month later, Adrian’s stepmother emailed the boy’s therapist at the treatment center, saying Adrian was “getting to be too much all over again.” A year later, Adrian would be dead. Heather and Michael made it clear they didn’t want Adrian. They didn’t hide their abuse and neglect of him. Law enforcement and child welfare services didn’t care either. As a result, Heather and Michael did what they wanted with his precious life, knowing Adrian meant nothing to anyone with the authority to help.
- Child services knew he was still being neglected and abused and made a CONSCIOUS choice to take a hands-off approach. Did CPS not want to bother finding a safer place for Adrian to be placed, even short-term?
- Some of the abuse was even documented on Michael and Heather’s extensive security camera system set up around their home. According to the timestamps on the recorded footage, the abuse had been going on for at least nine months. This sick couple recorded Adrian’s torture, abuse, and murder.
- Heather even saved photos of their abuse and torture of Adrian to her iCloud and even shared these horrible photos with multiple people over Facebook and shared her stories of their intentional abuse with others. The Washington Post writes that “Leading up to the boy’s death, his stepmother, Heather Jones, often posted angry rants about Adrian on a private Facebook page and alluded to wanting to kill him, according to an affidavit obtained by the Kansas City Star. On Christmas Day 2014, the stepmother made a reference to wanting to simulate an episode of “The Walking Dead” in which a character shoots a child in the back of the head.”
- She went on to post she “might be the next (redacted) and have to feed some pigs a body.” No one she shared these photos or violent posts with ever turned her over to authorities. Heather had even saved online ads she had found for straight jackets and blankets to transport human bodies.
- When Heather was first being held on murder charges, she even went so far as to ask her landlord to log into her iCloud account so that she could have her photos of her children saved. While doing this, the landlord came across all of the images depicting Adrian’s torture that Heather had saved. She turned in the photos to authorities, but it was too late to be used in Heather’s case.
Some of these photos and videos Heather took are available to the public, and I accidentally stumbled upon them while researching this case and had to pause working on the episode because of how upsetting they are. I will not include any of them in today’s episode because they are gratuitous violence and torture, and I will not subject you guys to them. But I will tell you what some of these photos captured of his treatment.
Abuse and Torture
Photos Showed 7-year-old Adrian Being Subjected to the Following Abuse:
- I saw documented instances where he was blindfolded, stripped, tied, and handcuffed to tables and even an inversion table. I didn’t see photographic evidence of this, but I believe they also suspended him upside down on the inversion table, which is inhumane. Why else tie the child to an inversion table if torture like being suspended upside down for hours at a time wasn’t involved?
- Not only did Heather document these instances, but she also took photos of his swollen ankles, arms, and limbs. The swelling was due to him being tied so tightly, for so long, musculature disfigurement was formed from the treatment.
- There’s an awful photo where his face was severely bleeding and deeply cut after having had his face bashed in with a broomstick. Heather took pictures of it all. She wanted to remember every single act of cruelty. To cause a cut that deep, they had to have put some effort into the blow. I’m sure that child experienced so many concussions throughout his abuse and torture.
There is extensive camera footage of him being forced to walk around the yard carrying tiki torches as punishment. There is footage of him being forced to eat out of a maggot-filled bowl outside. Even worse, he was made to eat while his hands were tied behind his back, on his hands and knees.
He was treated even worse than the most neglected dog. He was a walking skeleton. I was shaken to see how emaciated he was in so much of the photographic and surveillance video footage.
Heather had pictures of his protruding bones and gaunt face. Michael and Heather relished the power they exerted to make this boy know he was helpless. They wanted to make him feel like the most unloved boy on earth.
I was tipped over the edge and had to walk away from this when I saw the security camera footage of skeletal Adrian standing overnight in the neck-deep waters of the Jones’ grimy swimming pool – in frigid January, no less. I had to take a break from this for a few days.
I know there is true evil in this world. Still, when I see it so blatantly being celebrated by torturers and abusers, I have trouble reconciling that there are people out there who get off on hurting and killing not just others but children.
Sick Parents’ Enjoyed The Torture
Adrian was stripped naked and forced to stand in the shower for hours. There is even a photo – a selfie, you guys – of Heather standing in front of the bathroom mirror. She is showing the boarded-up shower with Adrian inside and security cameras placed to capture his abuse. This was fun for them. They hated this little boy so much. In fact, they wanted to document their creative torture sessions so that they could go back and relive those moments. That is true evil.
Other photos included his swollen and busted lips. Police believe these wounds were inflicted as little Adrian tried to chew his way through the plyboard prison. Photos depicting him being strapped to objects like kitchen cutting boards and other straight-jacket-like scenarios. Tragic images show him tied up with a bar of soap wedged in his mouth while a plate of food sits in front of him. Heather titled one of the terrible images on her iCloud as “the boy.”
Adrian’s Death was Slow
Adrian was abused and starved to death by both Michael and Heather, the two people meant to care for him. In the Fall of 2015, Adrian died alone. He was trapped in the shower behind a large piece of plywood, where he was left there to die. He eventually died in that shower of starvation days later.
One of the children who lived in the house told investigators that they could hear Adrian begging for help. The child heard Adrian cry “I’m going to die.” Heather responded to Adrian’s cries of distress by telling him to “suck it up.” The Daily Mail UK says that Heather “called him ‘the boy,’ rather than using his given name. While she and Adrian’s father cared for their six girls, he was singled out for abuse of the worst kind.”
Adrian’s Remains Were Fed to Pigs
Heather and Michael left his body there in the shower for two entire weeks. Then the couple decided to purchase some pigs. They starved these poor pigs to increase their hunger. Then – they fed the starving pigs Adrian’s starved, emaciated, and rotting body. Some of Adrian’s remains were found by law enforcement in the Jones’ livestock pen on November 20, 2015.
Who failed Adrian?
For starters, a former employee of Michael Jones witnessed Adrian being abused. And that’s not all. The couple had Michael Jones’ uncle, Willie Flowers, living with them.
This is the man who could have and should have saved Adrian’s life. He knew of the abuse and never reported them. Willie even appears in some of the videos of Adrian’s abuse.
He gets off scot-free because no Kansas law existed then that obligated him to report what was happening. He was at Heather and Michael’s home long enough to have received mail there. His mattress and belongings were found in their home, indicating that he had lived there up until the end of Adrian’s life.
Missouri and Kansas Child Services
Missouri Children’s Division made the excuse that Michael and Heather had moved to Kansas but that they had informed the Children’s Division there. “According to The Kansas City Star and CBSnews.com, a Missouri caseworker made the following remarks in a report, “I made KS aware that Adrian had disclosed physical abuse by his stepmother — Heather Jones — and his father — Michael Jones — during a (forensic) interview held in Missouri. I also reported that the children are homeschooled and not seen by any outside members of the family on a regular basis, which heightened our concerns for the safety of the children.”
Homeschooling as a Form of Avoidance
Of course, they were homeschooling. This is a typical move made by abusers who wish to avoid interference or investigation into their abuse. Another big red flag was the family up and moving. It could be a part of the story that I don’t have insight into. Still, they moved for a reason, and right now, all I have to conjecture here is that they were evading authorities’ further involvement, especially since they would not cooperate with the “in-home services” by Missouri’s Children’s Division.
Quoted from fosterfocusmag.com: Kansas DCF Secretary, Phyllis Gilmore, claims they “last had contact with the family in early 2012. KSHB.com reported that Gilmore said the family’s frequently alternating residency between Kansas and Missouri greatly disrupted continuity of services and evaluation. However, she insisted Kansas child welfare officials “often” shared information about Adrian “when known” with their Missouri counterparts. Additionally, Gilmore stated that her agency “Thoroughly investigated” each reported incident of abuse or neglect involving Adrian.”
Corruption and Cover-ups by Child Welfare
Dr. Jamie Schwandt (Ed.D.) wrote an excellent piece for Foster Focus Magazine titled: THE HORRIFIC STORY OF: THE BOY WHO WAS FED TO PIGS. In his article, he further outlines how corrupt, lazy, and criminal the child welfare was in this case. I’m going to quote from it now:
“Former Deputy Director of DCF, Dianne Keech, informed KSHB.com that she is appalled by the lack of transparency from the agency. She quit the department due to issues similar to this case. Dianne stated that DCF often kept secret these type of child death cases from the public. She remarked, “It’s unconscionable. When there’s a child death and that child has had a history with DCF, that information needs to go to the family and the public and that agency needs to be held accountable.” Diane also commented about a DCF attorney, “She (the attorney) didn’t feel like we should document anything related to a child death. She wanted to only have verbal conversation over the phone. If we took handwritten notes we were instructed to shred them afterwards.” Yet, here is the most alarming remark from Diane, “I’ve personally viewed numerous deaths in Kansas where we’ve missed it.”
What an admission to make. There is a tight-lipped and secretive way that CPS and child welfare systems operate. They actively cover up their failures to absolve themselves of any responsibility when they fail to do their jobs.
Charges and trial
Investigators have said that this was one of “the worst things” they had ever seen. The Washington Post reveals that during Michael’s sentencing hearing, “a detective nearly broke down in tears during his remarks, the Kansas City Star recounted. He said the torture Adrian went through was unlike anything he had seen in more than two decades in law enforcement.”
The Daily Mail UK article reports that: “Dressed in a navy blue and white striped prison jumpsuit and orange Crocs, Michael Jones, a 46-year-old former bail bondsman, refused to look around as Adrian’s grandmother, sister, and mother addressed the court. He pleaded guilty in March to first-degree murder in the 2015 death of his son.”
Family Members Present Impact Statements
I will read from the Daily Mail UK piece about Adrian’s mother, grandmother, and sister’s testimonies in court. I found it all quite chilling.
“Adrian’s family – grandmother Judy Conway, sister Kiki Doctor and mother Dianna Pearce were all in Courtroom 16 at the Wyandotte County District Court on Monday afternoon for the sentencing. Adrian’s sister Kiki Doctor, speaking directly to Jones, told him how he used to terrify her when she lived with him for four years as a child.
‘You were my father-figure,’ she said. ‘I remember being terrified of you because of the way you treated my mom. My mother was scared of you, she was depressed and you were abusive. I remember how she locked herself in the bathroom saying she would kill herself because you had destroyed her self-esteem. ‘I thank God every day that she was not hurt,’ added Kiki, who also recalled Christmas Eve 2012 when he had hugged her and given her $100 and thanked her for looking after his children. ‘I wanted so badly to believe my siblings would be safe with you,’ she said. ‘You are deserving of eternity in prison with no chance of parole. You took an innocent life and my family’s emotional health as well.”
Adrian’s Biological Mother Speaks
The Daily Mail UK piece goes on to report that “Adrian’s mother Dainna Pearce added: ‘Adrian was in your care and you took his life from him and tormented him with cruelty. You killed him in the most gruesome, hideous manner.
‘You failed as a father,’ Pearce added. ‘You were supposed to protect him, love him, kiss away his hurts and show him how to be a great man. But you chose to murder your own flesh and blood.’
The Effects on Responding Law Enforcement
Detective Stuart Littlefield also spoke of the emotional effect the case had on all the cops who had been involved. ‘There is nothing that could have prepared us for this,’ he said. ‘The abuse and torture was only compounded by the fact that Mike and Heather had systematically documented it.’
‘Nothing affected me more than when Mike told me that Heather would Tase Adrian for 15-20 seconds at a time,’ added Littlefield, who then stayed quiet for 20 seconds to let the court realize how long that time was. ‘Imagine the screams of that little boy,’ the detective told the court.”
In the end, Michael and Heather Jones were sentenced to a minimum of 25 years to life in prison.
Adrian’s biological mother is one of several who filed wrongful-death lawsuits against both states, but I can’t help but see her as partially to blame here. The mother has a lot of nerve, blaming everyone else for a tragedy that kicked off with her own inability to care for Adrian. She could have saved her son’s life too. But, let me clarify that I fully back Adrian’s maternal grandmother and his older sister, who have filed these suits.
The lawyer representing Adrian’s grandmother, mother, and sister stated that “Despite all the warning signs, the hotline calls, and the evidence of the child’s mistreatment, they effectively allowed his father and stepmother to continue to abuse, torture, and ultimately murder the little boy, while they stood idly by, writing it all down.” The lawsuit went on to rightfully claim that “the state’s intervention was “limited” to instructing Adrian’s father and stepmother to sign a piece of paper agreeing to stop abusing the boy — “the legal equivalent of a ‘pinky swear.'”
Child Welfare System Deemed “Not Liable”
Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, the Missouri courts ruled that social workers aren’t liable for Adrian Jones’ death, letting child services, once again, slip by not being held accountable. In fact, KCUR (Kansas City’s NPR station) reports that “The Missouri Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a lower court’s finding that the social workers were entitled to official immunity. That doctrine shields public employees from liability for alleged acts of negligence committed in the performance of discretionary acts while they were on the job.”
Adrian’s family will not receive any justice here. The family’s lawyer is disappointed in the ruling but plans to have the case transferred to the Missouri Supreme Court.
What if our child services across the country were based on performance metrics rather than failing bureaucratic cronyism? Why aren’t social workers fired or retained depending solely on their performance? Suppose each social worker was given a yearly review based upon the success or failure of the cases they handled.
If a particular social worker continues to have reports made about their cases and no resolution has been made to provide that child with safety and care, not only should that employee NOT get any salary increases, but they should be fired if they show a continued failure to do their jobs. In that case, I feel as if there would be more of an incentive to place the safety and well-being of that child as the number one priority of that social worker.
This case was the catalyst for prompting a state lawmaker to introduce new legislation that would make it possible to penalize or charge adults who don’t report child abuse taking place in the home. The Kansas Reflector reveals that “Woven into House Bill 2158, Adrian’s Law mandates children alleged to be victims of abuse or neglect to be visually observed by an employee of the Kansas Department for Children and Families or a representative of the law enforcement agency investigating the report. To help prevent children from falling through the cracks, both DCF and law enforcement must interact with the child during joint investigations.”
To watch Part 2, click link.
Here are links to references and quoted articles used for today’s episode: