A Kansas woman received a life sentence Monday following the gruesome death of her 7-year-old stepson, who was beaten, starved and left to die in a pigpen over a year ago. Her husband, the boy’s father, was also charged for his role in the boy’s death but will not stand trial until February.
While on the stand, 30-year-old Heather Jones apologized to the family of Adrian Jones, who authorities say may have died sometime between Sept. 18 and Oct. 5 last year, according to the Kansas City Star. Heather Jones said that she could not protect the little boy from his father, Michael Jones, whom she said was also abusive towards her.
"I didn’t have anyone to call. I didn’t have any family to help me," she said.
Heather Jones pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in October. She will be eligible for parole after serving at least 25 years in prison. Prosecutors said they were unable to push for the death penalty because her case didn’t meet the necessary qualifications. Her husband, who will not stand trial until February, pleaded not guilty to premeditated first-degree murder.
Authorities didn’t discover Adrian Jones’ body until Thanksgiving day last year after arriving at Heather and Michael Jones’ home the day before following a domestic disturbance complaint, for which Michael Jones was arrested and charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault. However, while investigating the domestic dispute, authorities reportedly learned Adrian Jones had been missing for months and after obtaining a search warrant they found the human remains in the family’s pigsty. A DNA test later identified the remains as Adrian Jones.
Chief Deputy district Attorney Sheryl Lidtke told the Kansas City Star that Adrian Jones suffered from physical and emotional abuse before he was confined to the barn and consumed by pigs.
“He was horribly abused, neglected and ultimately killed,” Lidtke said. “I’m sure his suffering was unbearable.”
Adrian Jones was Michael Jones’ son from a previous relationship. Six other children between the ages of 2 and 10 were living with their father at the time of Adrian Jones’ death. They were placed in state custody following the discovery of the boy’s remains.
A year-to-date report by Kansas Department for Children and Families said that from July to September of this year, more than 15,200 cases of child abuse have been reported throughout the state. A nationwide report by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System listed more than 1,500 fatalities due to child abuse and neglect throughout the U.S. each year.