WICHITA (TNS) — Carlo Brewer can finally move forward. After more than a year of waiting for justice, the man charged with killing his little boy, Evan, and encasing his body in concrete was found guilty.
Jurors on Wednesday convicted Stephen Bodine of eight criminal charges. Their deliberations were swift. It took less than an hour of discussion Tuesday afternoon and a night of sleep for them to decide the 41-year-old was guilty of abusing Evan and holding the boy hostage before murdering him on May 19, 2017.
For Brewer, the verdict brought mixed feelings of happiness and sadness following a weeklong trial where the torture his 3-year-old endured for at least two months before his death was put on public display.
Prosecutors presented an exhaustive case, with more than 550 pieces of evidence and testimony from dozens of witnesses, that Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said showed "the wretched details of how this little boy lost his life."
"There's a lot of weight off my shoulders," Brewer said standing outside the courthouse after the verdict's announcement.
"It's a really good day. I haven't had a lot of those in a while."
Brewer was with family members and Bodine's 23-year-old daughter, Samantha Johnson, who told jurors earlier this week about how her father would try to drown her in the bathtub when she was a young child then bring her back to consciousness with CPR.
She said Wednesday she testified to help "tell Evan's story" because he didn't have the chance.
"I felt like a little girl again reliving it. And it was really really hard," Johnson said before sharing a group hug with Evan's family. "But I had to hold it together for a 3-year-old boy."
Jurors found Bodine guilty of two counts of first-degree felony murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping and one count of each of child abuse and aggravated child endangerment in connection with Evan's torture and death. They also found him guilty of one count each of aggravated assault and criminal damage to property for threatening Carlo Brewer with a hatchet on Aug. 11, 2017, while Carlo searched for his son.
They reached their verdict at 9:05 a.m. Wednesday.
Attorney by his side, Bodine sat expressionless when Judge Stephen Ternes read the jury's decision aloud in court. He was in the same clothes he'd been wearing throughout the trial -- a white collared shirt and dark dress pants — but didn't have on a necktie anymore.
The gallery was packed but silent except for a few soft sniffles that came from Evan's family and Bodine's mother, who gave Bodine a house in trade for Johnson when the girl was 7 so she could escape Bodine's abuse.
After jurors filed out of the courtroom, deputies snapped handcuffs on Bodine's wrists and escorted him out. He'll be back in court for sentencing Dec. 17. Then he'll receive life in prison for murder plus additional time for the other crimes.
Bennett, the district attorney, said after the verdict that he was "very pleased" with the convictions and thanked jurors for doing "an extraordinary job for the community."
Defense attorney Casey Cotton said he wouldn't comment until after Bodine's sentencing.
Prosecutors at trial said Evan's mother, Miranda Miller, and Bodine, her boyfriend, hid Evan away and tortured him for at least two months all while Carlo was reporting suspected abuse to the state's child protective services and trying to gain custody of him. The abuse Evan endured includes beatings, berating, being forced to wear a dog collar and standing naked for hours in the basement of the rental home at 2037 S. Vine where he lived.
Some of it was captured on a home surveillance system Bodine set up in the home to track Miller's and Evan's movements. Police came across it while sifting through 16,000 video clips and photos that had been uploaded to a storage cloud, looking for the last time Evan was alive.
It's not exactly clear how Evan died; his body was so badly decomposed after authorities painstakingly chipped him out of his tomb that an autopsy couldn't determine his cause of death. Prosecutors suggested he might have been beaten, choked to death or drowned.
Miller on Monday testified that her son, ill for days after Bodine made him swallow large amounts of salt, collapsed after hours of standing against a wall on May 19. Bodine, she testified, slapped Evan when he wouldn't get up and hauled him into the bathroom to stop his screaming. When he emerged, Evan's head was wet and he was limp. She performed CPR for 45 minutes at Bodine's urging but didn't call 911.
Days later, Bodine buried Evan's body in a wood-and-concrete tomb using supplies he and Miller bought.
Not knowing Evan was dead, Carlo Brewer and his family spent weeks staking out the rental house for any signs of him.
The home's landlord found the tomb inside of the laundry room on Sept. 2 after Miller and Bodine were arrested for not turning Evan over to his father.
Brewer said Wednesday that he wants the city to remember Evan as a "happy, beautiful" 3-year-old boy. "He was everyone's son."
But, he said, he also hopes his son becomes "a landmark for change" in the way people react to and report child abuse.
While other children were imagining creatures lurking under their beds, Evan "had real monsters in his closet," he said.
"You have to know the difference between abuse and discipline. Take a step back and look at what you're doing as a parent. Question if whether it's the right way to discipline or if it's abuse," he said. "Because it's got to stop."