Crete boy's death under investigation

CRETE, Ill. Kevin Johnson, 12, died Sunday morning at an Oak Lawn hospital. The fifth grader lived in a home in Crete with his four brothers and four step-siblings. DCFS took all of the children into protective custody after Johnson's death.

"I am so frustrated and so stressed out. We just found out that he passed away. We're trying to get information. We're trying to figure out what's going on," said Alicia Johnson, Kevin Johnson's sister.

Relatives of Johnson are looking for a clear explanation as to how he died. A spokesperson for the Department of Children and Family Services is calling the case a death investigation and says the boy may have been abused.

Johnson and his brothers were adopted when they were young. Their adoptive parents passed away within the last two years. The Department of Children and Family Services placed them with new foster parents who are related to the boys' previous adoptive father.

"They want to know what happened to him because I'm hearing mixed stories, stories on the internet, family members calling me. I don't know exactly what happened to Kevin," said Penelope Neal, Kevin Johnson's sister.

DCFS has had prior contact with Kevin Johnson's family twice in the last two years.

Teachers say Kevin was an unforgettable student at the Balmoral Elementary School special Education program. The 12-year-old's death has hit the teachers hard, as if it was one of their own children.

"I'm just devastated. I really am. He was a great kid. I will really miss him," said Jennifer McCarthy, Kevin's teacher for four years. "He seemed really happy at school. He loved to come to school. He would run off the bus and hug the aide, my aide, who would get him off the bus in the morning. He would just love to see her."

"He was the most loving child. He would give anything to anyone. He always stood up for anybody. He was always there to help," said Anita Cwiertniak, teacher's aide.

Kevin's teachers would not comment about any possible child abuse. They came to a police press conference Monday in hopes of learning more about how their student died. On Friday, paramedics were called to the boy's home. He was unconscious but breathing. He was transferred to Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn. Kevin died just before 11 a.m. Sunday.

"He was tied up and he had cigarette burns on him," said Neal.

Kevin's cause of death was not yet known. An autopsy was scheduled to be completed Tuesday.

Relatives of the 12-year-old say DCFS was wrong to place him and his brothers with the foster parent, one of which is the daughter of Kevin's adoptive parents. DCFS says they were seeking permanent guardianship of Kevin.

Kevin's parents were Oka Mae and Lester Johnson. Ola Mae Johnson's siblings were disappointed that Kevin was not given to them after his parents' deaths.

"They should have been with us from the start. It's because they locked us off, DCFS wouldn't even consider. They just allowed them to come in here and take over. They have never been a part of their lives. That's my point -- never been. How do you allow somebody that has never been a part of their lives to come in and just take over?" said Alicia Johnson.

Kevin's older brother Terrence Williams puts much of the blame on DCFS.

"If they let some guy come in that has no idea who they are, to the household, and come in, abuse them and kill my little brother, I hold them responsible," Williams said.

Relatives allege that the deaths of Kevin's parents, the boy's foster parents took over the household, changed the phone number and shut the rest of the family out.

"Every time that my family members would see these children, they would be afraid. We have called DCFS, we made complaints. They haven't done anything. They could have gave them to us," said Alicia Hodges, Kevin Johnson's relative.

Relatives said no one seemed to know where the foster parents were. They have five children of their own. Eight children living in the home, ranging in age from 2 to 17 years old, have been placed in protective custody.

"I just think they're guilty of doing something, (or) they wouldn't have fled," said Jeremiah Williams, Kevin's brother.

Crete police say DCFS is handling the investigation. So far, charges have not been filed against the foster parents.

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