'God spent extra time making Kevin'

Relates to:
Date: 2008-08-02

Tearful farewell to 12-year-old -- authorities suspect he was abuse victim
Author: Angela Caputo; SouthtownStar; Sun-Times News Group

Even before he could carry on much of a conversation, Kevin Johnson had women all figured out.

All he had to do was flash his priceless smile and the ladies would croon, his aunt Mary Carver recalled. But smiling wasn't the only way he melted hearts, relatives said. "Baby" also knew how to use music to get a little extra attention.

At 2, he would belt out his favorite hymn: "I Need You To Survive," by Hezekiah Walker, his older adoptive sister Alicia Hodges said.

The gospel song set the backdrop to a tearful funeral Friday at Monument of Faith Church in Ashburn for the 12-year-old, who died July 20 -- two days after he was found unresponsive at his home in south suburban Crete.

Authorities suspect he succumbed to a severe beating. Autopsy results remain inconclusive, and the cause of his death is pending a police investigation, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. Authorities have removed the remaining eight children from the Crete home.

Kevin's ability to stay sweet and bright through turbulent times led his aunt Camalla Robinson to believe there was something special about him. "Sometimes I wonder if God spent extra time making Kevin," she said.

He was born one of 13 children in a home where allegations of abuse ran rampant. By the time he'd celebrate his first birthday, all of his siblings had been placed in foster care.

Soon after, Kevin was adopted by a Crete couple -- Ola Mae and Lester Johnson -- and life began looking up. He settled into a comfortable, middle-class life, and Kevin's adoptive mom gave her youngest the nickname "Baby."

"She would spoil him rotten," said Hodges, Ola Mae Johnson's daughter.

But the couple died several years later, leaving their children in the care of their daughter Barbara and her husband, Fred D. Johnson II, who had five children of their own.

Quickly, the new parents cut ties with the rest of the family, other family members allege. That's when Hodges and her family went to Crete-Monee School District 201U officials with suspicions that the children were being mistreated.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services launched an investigation in 2007 and substantiated that Kevin had endured abuse, according to agency spokesman Kendall Marlowe. A second probe was launched in April when a fresh allegation was leveled that the boy had been subjected to additional abuse, Marlowe said.

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