Child welfare specialists and medical professionals testified Tuesday in the trial of a man charged with child abuse in his role as a caregiver for a 2-year-old child with Down syndrome who health care professionals and law enforcement say suffered from extreme malnourishment.
Elias Allen, 32, appeared with his attorney, Cheryl Stewart, in Finney County District Court before District Judge Ricklin Pierce. Finney County Assistant Attorney Tamara Hicks again represented the state.
Allen and his then girlfriend, Kiala Pollman, the 27-year-old mother of the child, were arrested in August 2017 on allegations of attempted second-degree murder, charges that were later reduced to child abuse. Police said the couple neglected the child, resulting in extreme malnourishment and dehydration.
Pollman took a plea deal earlier this month and was convicted of one count of child abuse. She has not yet been sentenced, but is expected to get probation.
Doctors and child welfare specialists testified Tuesday, with some testimony proving to be contradictory.
During a preliminary hearing in September, Dr. Jeremy Roderick testified that Allen and Pollman brought the child to his office a week before he was admitted to Children’s Mercy Hospital (CMH) in Kansas City with signs of life-threatening dehydration and malnourishment.
Roderick testified in September that he was in “disbelief” at the child’s condition and that Pollman seemed concerned, but that he saw no immediate danger or possibility of death for the child. He did not direct the family to go to the emergency room.
But on Tuesday, Roderick testified that the child’s weight of 11 pounds and 12 ounces was “extremely underweight.” He added that they couldn’t get a reading on the child’s temperature and vital signs. Roderick testified that he simply recommended that Pollman keep her hospital appointment that had been set for later in the week at CMH.
When cross-examined by Stewart, Roderick was asked to clarify previous comments. He said Tuesday that what he meant was that he was in disbelief that the child would be brought to him for care that was beyond his expertise. When presented with a transcript of the preliminary hearing in September, Roderick admitted that he made a “bad judgment call,” being that the child had no body fat at the time.
Social workers from St. Francis Medical Services testified that they had no reason to believe at the time that the child was in danger. They also testified that their job was to ensure that the child was maintaining his medical appointments, and that they only asked Pollman if she was following up with medical practitioners. Medical records explained during testimony indicate she was not, but no one followed up with the doctors to make sure.
Dr. Leo Altamirano was the child’s pediatrician in Garden City up until shortly before the child was admitted to the hospital. The child eats with a feeding tube, and Pollman had requested that Altamirano reauthorize her acquisition of a special formula provided through a program for low-income parents. The formula usually costs $35 to $50 a can, Pollman said during testimony on Monday.
Altamirano testified Tuesday that he did not reauthorize the formula because he had not seen the child in some time, he was concerned about the child’s weight, and he had not consulted with doctors at CMH. He added that his notes showed that Pollman had missed five appointments at CMH, and he wanted her to verify that the feeding tube was working properly — because the food was supposed to prevent problems with weight loss among children with Down syndrome.
After consulting other doctors, Altamirano learned that Pollman was at least sometimes feeding the child by mouth, putting him at risk of aspiration and death.
Altamirano also thought the child was receiving therapy services from Russell Child Development Center, but subsequent testimony by an RCDC official would show that Pollman had missed many of her appointments.
Crystal Faudere, a doctor of osteopathy in El Dorado, testified Tuesday that she was assigned the child’s case when he was placed into foster care in October 2016 after his hospital stay. She said the child was not strong enough to feed by mouth at the time and was extremely week. She added that doctors at CMH had told her they didn’t expect the child to live long enough to be placed in foster care.
“He was basically just limp… bones with skin on it,” Faudere said.
She added that after he began receiving proper care, he began to quickly recover. “He was a completely different kid,” she said. After his recovery, he was put in his grandmother’s care and had his feeding tube removed in January 2017.
During Stewart’s cross examination, she noted that documentation from Faudere’s office indicated that in early October 2016, the child was eating “table food” and drinking “whole milk” by mouth, contradicting Faudere’s previous statement.
Pollman testified on Monday that Allen was not authorized to manage the child’s medical appointments on his own. Though he had fathered two of Pollman’s children in the family and acted as a caregiver when the alleged abuse occurred, the child in question is not his biological son.
Pollman further testified that Allen treated all three children that were in their care in the same manner, played with the children appropriately, and that the child in question had no bruises or broken bones when admitted to the hospital.
Pollman testified Monday that she was given probation in exchange for agreeing to testify in Allen’s trial.
Allen’s trial is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Contact Mark Minton at firstname.lastname@example.org.