For a year and a half, Adrian Jones has been known as the child whose lifeless body was fed to pigs.
Now we also know he was a little boy who begged adults for help. He told all the right officials of his trauma: a social worker, a police officer and others.
Adrian died in 2015 after being tortured and eventually starved by his father and stepmother while they lived in Kansas. They have been sentenced to life in prison.
Because the state of Missouri has released records in the case, we know much more about Adrian’s seven years of life. Two years before he died, he told Missouri authorities that he wasn’t being fed, that he was being hit and kicked by his father.
The newly released details raise more questions, demanding deep scrutiny of protocols and regulations.
It’s far too easy to hear a story like Adrian’s and conclude that a child simply “fell through the cracks” of systems intended to protect such at-risk children. There should be no cracks. Two states were involved, and somehow they both failed to save this child.
Questions remain about how coordination between Missouri and Kansas is handled. At-risk families like Adrian’s often move, sometimes to avoid detection. There’s little doubt that other abused children are being shuttled between our two states. Establishing a better timeline of every interaction that officials had with Adrian could lead to crucial changes that could save the life of another child.
The records in Adrian’s case raise questions about who has the authority to remove a child in Missouri. Workers with the children’s division of the Missouri Department of Social Services appeared to believe that Adrian wouldn’t be safe staying in his home, the records show. But the juvenile officer in the case decided that removing him wasn’t necessary.
After disclosing abuse, Adrian still went to a followup appointment with his father. That allowed Adrian’s abuser to possibly threaten the young boy to keep quiet. Or he could have promised that he’d feed Adrian in exchange for silence.
There are heroes here, probably on both sides of the state line. The Kansas Department for Children and Families has not released its records in the case, pending a judge’s decision to unseal them. But the 500 pages of records from Missouri show that a worker tried to tell Kansas officials that the family had stopped cooperating on efforts to help with intensive services. Unknown is what happened next.
What we do know is that eventually, unimaginably cruel abuse ended Adrian’s short life. His story is not complete. Adrian’s case must spur additional safeguards and tightened regulations to ensure that no child suffers like this.