Thunder in the Vicinity
May 1, 2017
Editor’s note: This story contains graphic and disturbing images which have not been seen by the public until now. We struggled to decide what images to include, and they are hard for us to see too. We are not trying to be salacious or sensational by publishing them, and we do not want to further victimize anyone involved. Our goal is accountability. The social and government systems that should protect children may have failed Adrian Jones. By publishing this series, we hope to shine a light on these possible failures.
He’s known across the Kansas City metro as the boy who was fed to pigs.
To Judy Conway, Adrian Jones was her grandson.
“He always told me he was gonna play football and when he smiled the whole room lit up,” Conway said. “He just had the most amazing smile.”
Conway’s daughter was married to Adrian’s father Michael Jones. In 2012, the Kansas Department for Children and Families removed the kids from their biological mother's home. Conway wanted the children. But the state told her the kids’ father wanted custody, and he got it.
Today, Conway often wonders how differently Adrian’s life would have turned out if the children had moved in with her instead.
In late 2015, police were called to a home in Kansas City, Kansas for a domestic dispute.
When police arrived, a woman who lived there told them if they looked around the property they’d find the remains of a child.
Officers found Conway’s 7-year-old grandson's remains in a livestock pen. He lived at the home with six siblings and his killers: his father and step-mother, Heather Jones. The children were isolated there under the guise of homeschooling.
“It went through my mind for a while -- I’d like to see them put to death,” Conway said. “But it doesn't fix anything. It doesn't bring Adrian back.”
Conway remembers the phone call vividly.
“They (the detective) just said they found his body… and that he had been fed to pigs,” Conway said.
Prosecutors refer to Adrian’s death as one of the most heinous crimes they’ve ever seen.
The story made global headlines.
While the Joneses are now behind bars for murdering their son, much of what led up to the little boy’s death has remained a mystery until now.
Jen Hoevers, the Joneses’ landlord at the time, is one of the few people who knows exactly what happened to Adrian.
“I have a lot of sleepless nights,” Hoevers said.
Shortly after the Joneses were arrested, Hoevers said Heather gave her access to her Apple iCloud account.
“She wanted me to get in and save pictures of her kids,” Hoevers said.
The landlord had no idea she was about to log in and see gruesome evidence.
“As soon as I opened iCloud, I found pictures of Adrian’s abuse,” Hoevers said.
She took the evidence to police and then to Adrian's grandmother. She’s now sharing it with the 41 Action News Investigators.
The images live in Hoevers's memory and in a file on her desktop. It’s labeled “House of Horror.”
The click of a mouse shows a household under constant surveillance. Cameras in every room. Michael and Heather monitored Adrian’s every move. The couple even took photographs of Adrian’s deteriorating health, documenting it as if they were proud of the torture they inflicted upon him.
What should have been a safe place for Adrian, his home, became a prison.
“It just kind of ate me up,” Hoevers said.
The abuse began with Adrian being forced to stand for hours with his hands in the air.
Several photos show the 7-year-old strapped to a table and blindfolded.
In one of the videos, an unidentifiable person cracks open Adrian’s face with a broomstick.
With the click of each photo, little by little, Adrian's spirit begins to fade. He transforms from a healthy, happy little boy to one who looks gaunt and malnourished -- a shell of the child he once was.
Surveillance video shows Adrian’s hands and feet handcuffed while he was forced to stay outside. In those videos, he can be seen looking around as if he’s being watched. One shows the child trying to use his mouth to pick up what appears to be a bowl and eating whatever was in it. At that point, his step-mother, Heather, comes into the video and appears to be lecturing Adrian. She can also be heard talking to one of the other children about Adrian eating a bowl of applesauce that has bugs and dirt in it.
Most of Adrian’s last days were spent stripped naked and confined to a shower stall for hours.
The Joneses also forced their son to stand in neck-deep water in the family’s filthy swimming pool overnight.
Hoevers, the Joneses' landlord, told the 41 Action News Investigators Heather also gave her access to her Facebook account.
“There were messages throughout Facebook talking about tasing him,” Hoevers said.
Many of the photos show mysterious marks on Adrian’s body.
“It looked like there were a lot of Taser marks and then a lot of swelling from being strapped to the inversion table and handcuffed to the wall, and a lot of scratches and stuff from probably picking [and] trying to get out,” Hoevers said.
The timestamps on the surveillance footage show Adrian was abused over the course of 9 months.
But Heather also documented Adrian’s abuse in writing. She uploaded notes about it that date back to 2012.
In the last months of Adrian’s life, his parents stopped calling him by his name. “They called him ‘the boy,’” Conway said.
In a Facebook message Heather sent to an unknown person, she wrote,
“Just strapped the boy to my inversion table with handcuffs and ace bandages and put him downstairs…”
Conway said Michael and Heather wouldn’t let her see the kids in the months leading up to Adrian’s death.
She told the 41 Action News Investigators she was worried and contacted the Kansas Department for Children and Families twice. But because she didn’t have evidence of abuse, Conway said her concerns fell on deaf ears.
“I couldn’t say abuse was going on because I didn’t know abuse was going on,” Conway said.
If Conway could’ve logged into the Joneses’ iCloud account, she would have peeked into her grandson's hellish world. The account was also filled with screenshots of a restraint chair, a straitjacket, and other confinement products for sale.
Shortly before Adrian died, Conway said he became so weak he could no longer hold himself up in the shower where he was held captive. She said Michael and Heather strapped him to a chair and left him in the shower to die.
Tortured by his parents and isolated from the rest of the world, little Adrian died alone in the shower.
Conway said after Adrian died, his parents left her grandson’s body in the shower for two weeks.
“Then, they went out and bought the pigs,” Conway said. “They didn't feed the pigs for a period of time and then they threw him out there.”
Along with the photos of Adrian’s abuse, Heather also saved pictures of the pigs in her iCloud account.
The Christmas before Adrian’s death stands out in Conway’s memory. It’s the last time she was allowed to see him. He died about nine months later.
“I was getting ready to leave and he wouldn’t let go of my leg. I knelt down in front of him and he told me that he loved me and he wanted to go with me and I told him that I loved him and that I would always be there for him and I’d always keep him safe.”
The last words Conway spoke to her grandson are now a painful reminder of a promise she couldn’t keep.
“I’m just thinking, how many times did he say, ‘Where’s my Nana and when’s she gonna come get me?,’” Conway said. “That really broke my heart, because he left this world thinking he was unloved. But he was loved.”
Conway still sees Adrian, in her dreams, where his story has a much different ending.
"I somehow find out something's going on and I go to the house," Conway said. "I find a blanket, I pick him up, I wrap him up and I take him out. As we're walking away, he says to me, 'what took you so long, Nana?'"
Heather Jones pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 25 years.
Michael Jones, who pleaded guilty in March to first-degree murder, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 8. He will also get a life sentence and will be eligible for parole in 50 years. He will be 94 years old.
Heather and Mike Jones