Miranda Miller testified Monday that the reason she and her boyfriend, Stephen Bodine, made her 3-year-old son stand naked and chained their basement was because the boy would refuse to apologize.
They would force Evan Brewer to stand sometimes for six hours with his hands behind his back and a belt his mother had tightened around his neck. Chains connected him to a large weight sitting on a wooden pallet on the floor. The boy was less than 3 feet tall and weighed around 28 pounds at the time.
Evan earned this punishment when “he wouldn’t apologize to Stephen,” Miller said in court. He would be forced to stand until he said he was sorry.
But Evan never would.
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Miller’s explanation for one of Evan’s disturbing punishments came during the fifth day of testimony of her boyfriend’s jury trial. Bodine, 41, is charged with first-degree murder, child abuse, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated child endangerment in connection with Evan’s abuse and May 19, 2017, death. He’s pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Bodine and Miller hid Evan and tortured him for at least two months before the boy died at the rental home where he lived at 2037 S. Vine in Wichita. Days later, Bodine encased Evan’s body in a concrete tomb. The landlord of the rental house discovered the tomb inside of the laundry room on Sept. 2 as he was changing locks after Miller and Bodine were arrested for not turning Evan over to his father, Carlo Brewer.
Miller made a deal with prosecutors that will allow her to plead guilty to a lesser murder charge and spend about 27 years in prison in exchange for her truthful testimony against Bodine. Defense attorney Casey Cotton told jurors last week that Bodine helped her hide Evan’s body.
Stephen Bodine ‘was my king’
Miller, in her testimony Monday, said the home where Evan lived was full of drug use and abuse.
She told jurors she regularly used methamphetamine and cocaine and abused prescription anxiety medications, pain pills and Benadryl both before and after Evan died — corroborating crime scene photos that show pills bottles, glass pipes and a drug scale scattered on surfaces around the house.
Bodine also used drugs daily, she said.
She said after started dating Bodine in late 2016, he began beating her almost immediately. Former girlfriends of Bodine’s and his own daughter — whose childhood punishments included being nearly drowned by Bodine — also took the witness stand Monday to testify to their own abuse.
Bodine’s favorite thing to do to her, Miller said, was to hit her on the head with his knuckle.
Once he threw her onto some plastic tubs because “he said I smiled at him and it made him mad.” That time she left with Evan. But eventually she went back to Bodine, who she thought of as her husband and called “my king.”
She had several opportunities to leave Bodine and to report abuse to authorities but didn’t, she testified.
“Why did you let a man who abused you back into your house?” prosecutor Justin Edwards asked her in court.
“I love him. He had nowhere else to go. He was my best friend. He was my king,” Miller replied. Her voice was mostly flat and unemotional.
Rules in Evan’s home
Miller testified that at first she took responsibility for Evan’s discipline, usually by sending him to his room. She described him as a good child who “didn’t really do much to get in trouble.”
Bodine had a different view, though, she said. He thought Evan got away with “too much” and wanted the boy to stay in his own bedroom. Bodine also didn’t like it when Evan would get too close to Miller because he thought Evan “was too clingy.”
Eventually, Miller testified, she handed over the disciplinary responsibilities to Bodine and told Evan to call him “daddy.”
Bodine started being physically violent toward Evan around the time that the boy turned 3, on March 6, 2017.
Six days after Evan’s birthday, on March 12, 2017, a home surveillance system Bodine set up in the home to monitor Miller’s and Evan’s movements captured photos and video of him chained naked in the basement. In the video, Bodine said things like “I’ll find out what you’re doing” to Evan and told him he was sick of him.
He would get angry when Evan refused to apologize, Miller said, adding that Bodine also would punch, kick and throw her son across the room when he wouldn’t say he was sorry.
“Why did you let a man come in and set rules for your kid?” Edwards, the prosecutor asked.
“Because I wanted to have a family. I wanted him to have a dad. I wanted to be a good mom,” Miller replied.
Evan was ‘lifeless’
Evan died on May 19, 2017, after Bodine hauled him screaming into the bathroom of the rental house and came out with him lifeless in his arms, Miller would later testify. She said that Evan has been ill for days — possibly from Bodine force feeding him large amounts of salt as a punishment — and wasn’t able to keep down food or sleep.
Last week, the director of the county’s forensic science center, Timothy Rohrig, testified that ingesting too much salt can cause lethargy, muscle twitching and heart problems. In small children, he said, swallowing a few tablespoons of salt may turn fatal.
Miller said she got Evan up the morning of May 19 when he wouldn’t lie still in bed on his stomach, even after she yelled at him and spanked him.
She fed him three doughnuts even though he didn’t want to eat, she said.
She and Bodine then made Evan stand in a corner for hours. When he collapsed and wouldn’t get up, Bodine slapped him, Miller testified.
Miller said when Evan started screaming she took him into the bathroom to try to calm him. It didn’t work, so Bodine snatched him up and shut the door.
When Evan went into the bathroom, he was alive, Miller testified. When Bodine came out, Evan’s head was wet and he was “lifeless.”
Instead of calling 911, she performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 45 minutes. Evan let out one breath then didn’t move again.
Bodine’s trial continues Tuesday.