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Criminal abuse probe involving Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill no longer active, prosecutors say

Six weeks after Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill was suspended from the team, amid an ongoing child abuse probe, prosecutors are no longer actively working the criminal case.

“It is not an active investigation,” Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said in an email Friday morning. “As in any case, if we receive additional evidence we reevaluate.”

Howe also told The Star that his comments made in an April 24 news conference “still hold true.” At that time, he said he believed the 3-year-old son of Hill and fiancee Crystal Espinal had been hurt but couldn’t prove who did it.

Two days after that news conference, and after a taped conversation of Hill and Espinal talking about their son and how he got hurt surfaced, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said the criminal investigation had been re-opened.

When asked Thursday if the case had ever been reopened, Howe did not respond.

But Hill’s attorney, Trey Pettlon, said Friday the criminal case had been closed for a while.

“It’s my understanding the criminal investigation has been closed for quite some time now and obviously there’s been some misinformation about that, but it is closed,” Pettlon said.

Though the criminal investigation is no longer active, Hill and Espinal do have an ongoing case with the Kansas Department for Children and Families. Generally speaking, cases like these can take weeks, months or even years for the families to receive the services they need.

Mike Deines, a DCF spokesman, said he could not comment on the ongoing case.

Many across the Kansas City area have been waiting on news out of Howe’s office. Hill’s future with the team has been in limbo.

In a May press conference, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was waiting for permission to interview Hill for its own investigation. That directive stems from the child welfare case, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Friday.

“There is a court proceeding still going on involving CPS, Child Protection Services, and we will not interfere with that,” Goodell said then. “The priority is this young child and so we will obviously be cooperative with whatever the court wants there. We are prepared to go ahead and have an interview whenever we have the permission to.”

News surfaced in mid-March that Overland Park police took two reports at Hill’s Johnson County home, one for battery and the other for child abuse and neglect. The police reports, dated March 5 and March 14, involved a juvenile.

The Star reported on March 15 that a source familiar with the situation said an incident at Hill’s home left the boy with a broken arm.

The Star reported on April 18 that sources said the 3-year-old was removed from the custody of Hill and the boy’s mother.

It isn’t clear if that status has changed. An Instagram video posted Monday to an account in the boy’s name showed the child playing on park playground. Hill can be heard talking to the child while he traversed a rope bridge.

On April 24, Howe said he wouldn’t be filing charges and that though he thought a crime had been committed, he couldn’t prove who hurt the child.

The next day, a Kansas City television station aired the taped recording of the graphic conversation between Hill and Espinal — who is pregnant with twins.

On April 25, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said Hill would not participate in team activities for the foreseeable future.

At the time, owner Clark Hunt said he was “deeply disturbed” by the audio recording.

In a four-page letter sent to the NFL on May 2, an attorney for Hill denied the child abuse claims that were alluded to in the audio recording, which was allegedly made by Hill’s fiancee in a Dubai airport.

The letter disputes nearly every claim made in the snippets of the 11-minute recording aired by the Kansas City television station.

He is committed to improving his life and becoming the best parent he can be,” Pettlon wrote in the letter. “... He is very upbeat even through this difficult process, and he’s embracing the counseling and the educational aspect to it.”

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Laura Bauer came to The Star in 2005 after spending much of her life in southwest Missouri. She’s a member of the investigative team focusing on watchdog journalism. In her 25-year career, Laura’s stories on child welfare, human trafficking, crime and Kansas secrecy have been nationally recognized.
Brooke Pryor covers the Kansas City Chiefs for the Kansas City Star, where she works to give readers a deeper understanding of the franchise and the NFL through daily stories, game coverage, and player profiles. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C.
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