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Woman pleads guilty in death of 3-year-old Kansas girl

November 4, 2021 GMT

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A woman admitted to killing her boyfriend’s 3-year-old daughter whose body was found after her grandparents raised concerns about her safety in a case that drew attention to the agency responsible for overseeing young children in Kansas.

Jacqulyn Kirkpatrick, 34, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Wyandotte County District Court to second-degree murder, child abuse and interference with law enforcement in the death of Olivia Ann Jansen.

An Amber Alert was issued for the Kansas City, Kansas, girl in July 2020 after her father, Howard Jansen III, reported that he awoke to find her gone and a door open. Investigators searched with all-terrain vehicles, drones and dogs before finding her body in a shallow grave in a wooded area about a mile away.

Court records show the girl had signs of physical abuse. Her father also was charged with murder, and his trial is set for May 2 .

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Kirkpatrick is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 20.

Olivia’s death led to calls for changes at the Kansas Department of Children and Families. Information previously released by the agency shows it received two reports of alleged physical abuse involving Olivia in February 2020. One report alleged Olivia’s father hit her on the leg, leaving a bruise and possibly breaking the limb. The other report alleged Kilpatrick hit the girl. Both were ruled unsubstantiated after a person who alleged the abuse recanted.

The girl also was visited by a caseworker over a video call 11 days before she was found dead. That investigation stemmed from a hotline report from someone worried that her caregiver was unavailable or unable to care for her and may be using drugs.

Child welfare officials also have acknowledged that they received repeated reports about a 2-year-old Wichita boy before he was found dead in a motel of a methadone overdose in May 2019. A 3-year-old Wichita boy’s body was found encased in concrete in 2017 after relatives repeatedly reported abuse. In the Kansas City area, a 7-year-old boy was tortured, starved, killed and fed to pigs in 2015 despite extensive involvement with welfare officials.

The state has taken several steps to address the issues, including creating an independent office to review complaints against the Kansas’ foster care system and recommend changes in child welfare policies, a longtime goal of advocates for abused and neglected children.