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Judge Orders 8 Children To Remain In Protective Custody


Judge Orders 8 Children To Remain In Protective Custody

Caseworkers: Second Child Has Signs Of Abuse

July 22, 2008

JOLIET, Ill. -- A Will County judge on Tuesday ordered eight children remain in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services following the death of a 12-year-old special education student in his south suburban home Sunday morning. Caseworkers also revealed that one of the other children is currently being hospitalized with signs of abuse.

Paramedics on Friday evening were called to a home on Beckwith Lane, in Crete, for a report of an unconscious child, according to police Chief Paul VanDeraa, who said the boy's foster father called 911.

Kevin Johnson was taken to St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights, then transferred to Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn, where he died late Sunday morning, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Pffice.

Will County Judge Rodney Lechwar on Tuesday ordered that eight children in the family’s home remain in the custody of DCFS, according to Will County State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Charles Pelkie.

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Caseworkers testified that five biological children and three other children, who were in the process of being adopted, lived at the home at the time of Kevin's death, according to court documents.

One of those is currently hospitalized with bruises on his back and an infected leg sore, according to court documents. He also has burn marks on his shoulder.

DCFS caseworkers reported they had visited the home on prior occasions, most recently in April 2008. When DCFS arrived to investigate, workers found Johnson with a weighted helmet on, which they were told was a form of punishment, court records said.

Caseworkers testified that Johnson was struck with a wooden paddle on the day of his death and had been beaten on multiple occasions, including being bounced off the floor and knocked unconscious.

Crete police say they are investigating Johnson’s death. The eight children, ranging in age from 2 to 17, were initially removed from the home by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Police were called to the home in January and March 2007, and one of the visits dealt with alleged abuse, VanDeraa said.

Fred Johnson had been the boy's legal guardian for a year after the death of his previous guardian, Johnson's father-in-law, Lester Johnson.

VanDeraa said Fred and Barbara Johnson are cooperating with the investigation.

Kevin's troubled history came to light through DCFS, which in 2007 had substantiated that a sibling was abusing Kevin, agency spokesman Kendall Marlowe said.

In April, DCFS launched a probe into allegations the boy was enduring abuse at the hand of an adult in the home, Marlowe said.

Shortly after the investigation was opened, DCFS brought supportive services into the home. That investigation was ongoing at the time of Kevin's death, Marlow said.

"We don't know if abuse caused this boy's death," VanDeraa said.

Five of the children in the home, including Kevin, initially were adopted by Ola Mae and Lester Johnson, according to DCFS.

But after the deaths of Ola Mae and Lester, Fred and Barbara Johnson took on the role of foster parents, according to DCFS. The other four children in the home are biological children to Fred and Barbara Johnson, Marlowe said.

Campbell said he didn't have much contact with the family.

"Every time we tried to call or knock on the door, they'd hang up the phone or not come to the door. We haven't had contact in more than a year," Campbell said.

An autopsy to determine the cause of Kevin's death has yet to be performed, since the boy's body remained at the hospital Tuesday, according to the medical examiner's office.

Copyright 2008, Chicago Sun-Times Inc.

2008 Jul 22