US stepmother pleads guilty to murder of boy fed to pigs
In a case that shocked even veteran police officers and prosecutors, the stepmother of a seven-year-old boy killed in Kansas City, US, last year has pleaded guilty to murder and child abuse charges.
Heather Jones, 30, appeared in Wyandotte County District Court on a charge of first-degree murder, relating to the death of Adrian Jones, whose remains authorities previously said had been fed to pigs.
Her husband and the boy's father, Michael Jones, have also been charged in the case and a February trial date has been set.
The boy's remains were found last November on the property where Heather Jones and her husband lived.
Police were initially called to the home the day before Thanksgiving on a domestic disturbance call.
Michael Jones, 45, was arrested and later charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault in connection with that disturbance.
But while on the scene investigating that incident, police learned that the boy had not been seen for several months and may have been killed.
On Thanksgiving Day, police served a search warrant on the property and found human remains in a barn.
The remains were later identified as Adrian's after DNA testing.
According to Wyandotte County prosecutors, the little boy had been the victim of "chronic confinement and abuse" before his death.
Court documents say Adrian was abused over a period of several months beginning in May 2015.
The documents say he was killed sometime between September 18 and October 4 last year.
Heather and Michael Jones were charged in December with first-degree murder and child abuse.
Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman said, when announcing charges, that the crime scene was one of the worst things police investigators had ever seen.
Gorman also said that the US$10 million (NZ$13.9 million) bond for Michael Jones was the highest he had ever seen in more than three decades as a prosecutor in Wyandotte County.
Bond for Heather Jones was set at US$5 million, and both have been in custody since the murder charges were filed.
After the murder charges were filed, Heather Jones' father told The Kansas City Star that he last spoke to his daughter when she called him on Thanksgiving.
"She told me that Mike killed the little boy and it would be all over the news," the father said. "He fed him to the pigs, is all she said ... she just told me it was going to be all over the news, and that's the last time we talked."
Michael Jones also had a court appearance Thursday (Friday NZ time) and asked for a new lawyer.
District Judge Mike Grosko denied the request and set a trial date for February 6.
Grosko scheduled sentencing for Heather Jones for November 14.
The first-degree murder charge carries a penalty of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. Her sentences on the two child abuse charges she pleaded guilty to depend on the extent of any previous criminal record.
- The Kansas City Star