To Shayla Johnston and other members of the Brewer family, Aug. 11 was a pivotal night when they could have discovered – 22 days sooner – whether 3-year-old Evan Brewer was dead or alive.
Finally, after months of trying to find Evan and see whether he was OK, they felt they had legal leverage: a reason for police to enter the rental house where the child had been living with his mother. Police and child-protection workers had been knocking on the door for months, trying to check on the child.
But the chance evaporated that night.
“A missed opportunity,” Johnston calls it.
Help us deliver journalism that makes a difference in our community.
Our journalism takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to produce. If you read and enjoy our journalism, please consider subscribing today.
If Evan was still alive, “it may have been a chance to save his life,” she said.
If Evan was already dead, she said, it would have been a way to find his body and preserve evidence three weeks sooner.
On Sept. 2, the landlord found the 3-year-old’s body encased in concrete in the laundry room of the house on South Vine.
Johnston has been involved with issues surrounding Evan because she is an attorney for and cousin of Evan’s father, Carlo Brewer.
Recorded on video
The pivotal night of Aug. 11 played out with 40-year-old Stephen Bodine recorded on a cellphone video charging out of the house on South Vine.
The 33-second recording – punctuated with profanity, angry voices and the sharp hiss of a tire being slashed – contains dark and grainy footage. According to a police affidavit, Bodine admitted to wielding a hatchet. The video shows him striding back into the house.
On Sept. 5, 25 days later, prosecutors charged Bodine for what allegedly happened that night, felony aggravated assault “with a deadly weapon ... a hatchet” and criminal damage to property. The victim of the alleged assault was Carlo Brewer. Brewer, 37, was standing outside the rental home, looking for his young son, who was last seen around July 6.
“He had gone there to retrieve Evan” after gaining full custody, Johnston said.
Bodine was the boyfriend of Miranda Miller. She is the mother of Brewer’s 3-year-old son.
Brewer can be heard on the video repeatedly asking Bodine, “Where’s my son?” He can also be heard telling someone to call 911.
Related stories from Wichita Eagle
Arrest 19 days later
Police came to the house twice that night. But they didn’t arrest Bodine until 19 days later, on Aug. 30.
“We consider this (the night of Aug. 11) a missed opportunity to search the house, to see if Evan was there or OK, or to arrest Bodine. It would have given them (police) a chance to preserve the crime scene,” Johnston said.
No charges have been filed in the child’s death. Police will not comment on the ongoing investigation.
According to Johnston, Brewer was outside the house that night when one of the officers was close enough for him to hear: “I don’t have time for this (expletive).”
She believes that some Wichita police officers at the scene viewed it as only a private custody dispute.
“We didn’t understand why police did not obtain an arrest warrant that night, or soon after,” Johnston said.
Police Department spokesman Officer Charley Davidson said Wednesday that department policy is not to say anything about a case after charges have been filed.
Davidson referred to department guidelines for warrantless searches. Policy 301 includes three scenarios for searches without a warrant or consent to arrest someone: 1. “Someone is likely to be killed and/or seriously injured ... .” 2. “A dangerous criminal offender is likely to escape apprehension and/or prosecution ... .” 3. An officer is in “hot pursuit” of a suspect.
That policy also says: “If there is probable cause to believe that critical evidence of a serious and/or dangerous offense is located within private premises and that the evidence is almost certain to be destroyed or removed unless immediate warrantless action is taken,” an officer can enter without a warrant or consent while waiting on a search warrant.
Megan Hashbarger took video from her house of Stephen Bodine’s arrest on Aug. 30 at 2037 S. Vine. The body of 3-year-old Evan Brewer was later found inside concrete at that home. McClatchyjgreen@wichitaeagle.com
Two views on warrant
Wichita defense lawyer Kurt Kerns said that under the circumstances of the Aug. 11 incident, “I can’t imagine where that wouldn’t have been enough for a warrant” to go into the home to arrest the suspect or search for evidence like a weapon. A warrant could have been obtained within an hour, Kerns said.
But longtime private investigator Emery Goad views it differently, saying that police already had plenty of evidence and they didn’t need to get a warrant to enter the house to gain more evidence.
At that time, without the benefit of hindsight, it would have been an inappropriate use of resources to involve a prosecutor and judge to draw up a warrant, Goad said.
With police getting so many calls, especially over child custody matters, the challenge is to distinguish “which ones are important,” he said.
A missing son
By the night of Aug. 11, it had been about four months since Brewer saw his son.
According to Johnston and court documents, state child protection workers and police had repeatedly knocked on the door of the South Vine home looking for Evan and his mother.
But according to one of the judges handling the court conflict over the child, authorities apparently felt they had no legal means to enter the home unless they could prove that Miller or her child was at the house.
On Aug. 11, Brewer’s wife, Sara Kirby, took a cellphone video of the hatchet incident while parked in the driveway of the house where Bodine and Miller lived with Evan. Kirby showed it to police officers at the scene that night, after she called 911, Johnston said.
Brewer also took a video of the incident, Johnston said.
On Facebook, Kirby sent a copy of her video to Police Chief Gordon Ramsay two days later, on Aug. 13, Johnston said.
In a Facebook message to the police chief, Kirby wrote: “Why did the police not go inside and arrest Stephen Bodine like they said they would after he attacked my husband with a hatchet and popped our tire?”
According to Johnston, there were conflicting statements from officers about steps that were to be taken. One officer said they were heading in to arrest Bodine once the flattened tire had been changed in the driveway.
‘Hatchet ... to scare’
This past Tuesday, police released their affidavit – dated Sept. 5 – about what led them to arrest Bodine for the Aug. 11 incident. This is the affidavit’s account:
At 11:15 p.m. two officers were dispatched to a disturbance at the house. Kirby told them that Bodine exited the house, holding a hatchet, and ran at Brewer as Brewer retreated. Bodine then used the hatchet to puncture the left front tire on the Chevy Tahoe that Kirby and Brewer brought to the house.
According to the affidavit, Brewer told police he was at the house trying to find his son and the boy’s mother when Bodine came out and “started to raise the hatchet over his head.”
Bodine pursued Brewer to within an arm’s length while holding the hatchet, causing Brewer to fear for his life, it says.
Bodine then started yelling at Kirby, in the Tahoe, and slashed the tire on the SUV, the affidavit says.
When officers tried to contact Bodine, he “refused to open the door of the residence,” it says.
When an officer asked Bodine to explain what had happened, “he made the statement ‘I flattened the God damn tire,’” the affidavit says.
The police detective compiling the affidavit wrote that he found out that Kirby took a video of Bodine coming out of the house holding what looked like a hatchet.
On Aug. 30 – 19 days after the alleged assault – the detective interviewed Bodine on the sixth floor of City Hall. After being informed of his Miranda rights, Bodine agreed to speak to the detective, the affidavit says.
Bodine said “he did in fact take the hatchet outside to scare” Brewer and admitted to damaging the tire, it says. Bodine “stated that he only did this to defend his property.”
Bodine said “that when he approached (Brewer) with the hatchet it was his intent to only scare (Brewer) not to hurt him,” the affidavit concluded.
For Johnston, it’s still not clear why Bodine wasn’t arrested until Aug. 30 especially because police issued what they call a felony pickup for the suspect, according to the police report from the night of the hatchet incident. A felony pickup directs officers to question a person if they see him.
Bodine remains in jail on a $25,000 bond. He is charged with felony aggravated assault.
Police have not said how or when the child died.