TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill Friday unanimously passed by the Kansas Legislature that recognized the torture and murder of the late Adrian Jones by mandating investigations of abuse and neglect include a visual observation of alleged victims.
The measure featured Adrian’s Law in remembrance of Jones, who was 7 years old when starved to death by his father and stepmother near Kansas City, Kansas, after years of physical and emotional torture that had been reported to officials in Missouri and Kansas. The child died in fall 2015 and his father fed the boy’s body to newly purchased pigs. His remains were found later that year.
“It was horrible, horrible,” said Sen. David Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kansas. “Law enforcement was called out to look at the welfare of a child and did not physically see the child. They were given assurances from what turned out to be the parent-guardian abusers that the child was all right.”
Adrian’s law woven into House Bill 2158 mandates children alleged to be victims of abuse or neglect to be visually observed by as 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.
Much of the abuse of Adrian was recorded by dozens of surveillance cameras positioned at the home where the child died. Evidence indicated he was forced to stand in stagnant water up to his neck, sleep outdoors in freezing weather, to be strapped to an inversion table with a blindfold, hit with a stun gun for up to 20 seconds at a time and taunted with a plate of food while a bar of soap was stuffed in his mouth. His final days were spent incarcerated in a shower stall.
Two years before his death, Adrian told a representative of the Missouri Department of Social Services that he was being beaten by his father. The family attempted to evade scrutiny by moving to Kansas where reports of abuse or neglect also reached DCF.
His father Michael Jones, 50, and the stepmother Heather Jones, 35, were sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison on convictions of first-degree murder.
The contents of House Bill 2158 also included establishment of the Legislature’s joint committee on child welfare system oversight, granted confidentiality of state child death review board documents and exempted the caregiver of a child in out-of-home foster care from the state’s 20-hour-per-week work requirement.
In addition, the governor signed House Bill 2026 to create a drug abuse treatment program for people on diversion.
“This bill is a significant step towards criminal justice reform in Kansas,” Kelly said. “Through this new drug abuse treatment program, our judicial system can redirect individuals struggling with addiction to the services they need to get healthy and successfully reenter society.”
Also signed was House Bill 2079, which placed under direction of the attorney general a program for allocating settlement money from drug-manufacturer lawsuits to local units of government for mitigating influence of substance abuse addiction. The same bill required more businesses to post signs about human trafficking and to transfer registration of charitable organizations to the attorney general from the secretary of state.
The other bill signed by Kelly was House Bill 2224 to expand the definition of infectious disease in relation to crimes in which bodily fluids were transmitted from one person to another.
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