Foster Parents Eyed In Death Of 12-Year-Old Boy

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Date: 2008-07-21

Foster Parents Eyed In Death Of 12-Year-Old Boy

DCFS Had Previous Contact With Boy's Family

July 21, 2008

CRETE, Ill. -- The Department of Children and Family Services is investigating the death of a 12-year-old south suburban boy who may have been abused.

Kevin Johnson, of the 3400 block of Beckwith Lane in Crete, was pronounced dead at University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital at 10:55 a.m. Sunday, a spokesman for the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office said.

"We are investigating death by abuse against both (adults)," DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said.

NBC5's Kim Vatis said paramedics arrived at the home to find the boy unconscious and breathing.

Kevin was the youngest of five brothers. He was a special needs child, suffering from water on the brain. The father in the home told police that Kevin had a history of seizures.

Kevin and his siblings were taken from their birth parents at an early age and put into foster care. Their foster mother adopted the boys and later married Lester Johnson, who became their adoptive father.

"He was just a good boy," said Alicia Hodges, Johnson's adoptive sister. "He just had his whole life ahead of him, and now it's just taken."

A relative told Vatis that both adoptive parents died within the last two years, and the children were placed in the custody of Barbara and Fred Johnson, the couple now being questioned by police in the boy's death.

The relationship between Fred and Lester Johnson is not clear, but Crete police identified him as the son-in-law of the deceased man.

The police chief said that Fred and Barbara Johnson have been the boy's foster parents for about a year.
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A relative of the brothers told Vatis that she had often seen Kevin's brothers at a neighborhood grocery store and they all acted "quiet and scared."

Eight other children have been removed from the home by DCFS, Vatis said.

Hodges said the families were in the middle of a custody battle over Johnson.

"This all could have been eliminated if they were staying with me and my sister," she said. "We wouldn't even be in this situation."

The department has had prior contact with Johnson's family, Marlowe said.

Crete police said DCFS was handling the investigation and had no further comment Sunday night.

An autopsy will be performed Tuesday, according to the medical examiner's office, as the body remained at the hospital.

"It's a tragic thing when a 12-year-old dies of any causes," said Crete Police Chief Paul Van Deraa. "At this point, this is a death investigation."

No one has been charged in the case, NBC5's Alex Perez reported. Loved ones also said they were due in family court early on Tuesday.

Additional information provided by Sun-Times News Group.


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