Relatives Demand Answers In 12-Year-Old's Death; Caregivers Investigated In Death Of Kevin Johnson

Relates to:
Date: 2008-07-21
Source: CBS 2 chicago

Caption:
Kevin Johnson's adult siblings pounded on the doors of this home in Crete Monday morning, after Kevin died and allegations of abuse surfaced against his caregivers.

A day after 12-year-old south suburban boy died at the University of Chicago Hospitals, authorities wanted to know whether anything that happened inside his Crete home led to his death and relatives of the boy said his death could have been prevented.

An investigation has been launched centering on the adults who looked after Kevin Johnson, in the house in the 3400 block of Beckwith Lane in Crete.

Kevin was pronounced dead at the U of C's Comer Children's Hospital at 10:55 a.m. Sunday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. Authorities expected an autopsy to be performed Tuesday and police said they can't discuss possible injuries he may have suffered yet.

Kevin's sister said he and four brothers were initially adopted by their grandparents after suffering abuse in their biological parents' home. The grandfather died and his daughter and her husband adopted the boys and Kevin's sister said it was the husband who reported Kevin was found unconscious.

Police did say that one of two police reports previously taken at the home indicated some level of neglect.

Kevin's sister Penelope Neal said, "He was tied up and had cigarette burns on him." Police said his foster father called for help, reporting he was unconscious at his home in Crete Friday evening.

Crete Police Chief Paul Vanderaa said, "He was breathing, but unresponsive ... his father did mention that he has seizures occasionally and he talked with us about those seizures."

Police have not said abuse led to the boy's death, but they have two police reports from the home – one from January and the other from March of last year.

One of those reports was given to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Kevin attended Balmoral School and was headed to 7th grade.

Teachers said he had challenges with learning, but was always eager. Jennifer McCarthy said, "I remember when he couldn't read and I remember my boss coming in and him reading to her and it was like a life experience, him being able to read."

On Monday morning, Kevin's adult siblings, who live in Indiana, visited the house looking for answers. They pounded on the front door of the residence.

The relatives said they learned of Kevin's death through news reports. They say his adoptive parents passed away, and he and his brothers were put in the care of another relative who would not allow visits.

The adult siblings said they have tried to gain custody of Kevin, and were always concerned about him.

"It's crazy. It doesn't make any sense when I've been trying to get them ever since my stepfather passed," Kevin's sister Penelope Neal said.

Neal said the foster parents would not allow them to see Kevin or his brothers and that police had informed them the kids were not attending school as they should.

Foster parents Fred and Barbara Johnson also had kids of their own and police said DCFS removed eight children from the home.

"It's painful. It's sad; it hurts. It's unexplainable," said Kevin's brother-in-law, Rico Neal.

"Kevin was such a sweet baby. He was such a good child, a loving child," said Kevin's sister Alicia Hodges. "He loved my mom and my dad. He loved my son… that's the one who's very upset. He was always with him. He was not a bad child."

Hodges' 17-year-old son became emotional at the house in Crete, and broke a window on the side trying to gain entry. He was pulled away by other relatives, and police were called to the scene.

Hodges said Kevin had special needs, and was the youngest member of the family. The adult siblings are now trying to find the rest of the siblings, and they said the caregivers have five children of their own.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services confirmed that the couple has been investigated for abuse allegations, and that investigators have had prior contact with the couple. Eight other children have been removed from the home and placed into protective custody, a DCFS spokesman said.

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