Family mourns loss of Crete boy

Relates to:
Date: 2008-08-02

By Angela Caputo Staff writer

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. "Look at his beautiful teeth" they'd say, his Aunt Mary Carver recalled. But smiling wasn't Kevin's only way to melt hearts. "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. He loved to repeat the refrain again and again, his older adoptive sister Alicia Hodges said. The gospel song set the backdrop to a tearful reunion as his family came together Friday at Monument of Faith Church in Chicago's Ashburn community to memorialize the 12-year-old boy who died June 20, two days after he was found unresponsive at his Crete home in the 3400 block of Beckwith Lane.

Authorities suspect he succumbed to a severe beating; however, autopsy results remain inconclusive, and the cause of his death is pending a police investigation, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. No charges have been filed in connection with Kevin's death. But authorities have removed the remaining eight children, who range in age from 2 and 17, from the Crete home.

'Spoiled rotten'

Kevin experienced more highs and lows than many adults five times his age. His ability to stay sweet and bright through turbulent times led his young Aunt Camalla Robinson to believe there was something special about the boy. "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, according to court records. Soon after, Kevin was adopted by a Crete couple - Ola Mae and Lester Johnson, who ran a small ministry - and life began looking up.

The children settled into a comfortable, middle-class life - with plenty of video games and toys - and Kevin's adoptive mom gave her youngest the nickname "Baby." "She would spoil him rotten," said Hodges, who is Ola Mae Johnson's daughter. "(The children) never wanted for anything. ... They were loved." Sadly, the couple died several years later, leaving the children in the care of their adult daughter Barbara and her husband Fred D. Johnson II, who moved into the Crete home with five children of their own.

Quickly the new parents cut ties with 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, which remains open, also was launched in April when a fresh allegation was leveled that the boy was subject to additional abuse, Marlowe said.

Although the funeral will help the family begin to heal, Kevin's cousin Toya Kidd said she and other family members won't be satisfied until the child abuse investigation is closed. "Once they make charges, there's really going to be closure," she said. Angela Caputo can be reached at or (708) 633-5993.


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