There are more questions than there are answers surrounding the death of 5-year-old Alexander Perkins.
Teller County law enforcement, including Sgt. Nick Olmsted of the Sheriff’s department, who was called to the Perkins’ home Aug. 7 when Alexander died, and Teller County Coroner Earl Bryne, M.D., can’t seem to agree whether this is a case of child abuse or not.
Meanwhile, there is the question of where Alexander’s 7-year-old surviving sibling will live. The sibling was removed from the Perkins’ home and placed in foster care soon after Alexander’s death. There is a civil hearing beginning Dec. 2 to answer that question.
Charges on parents
The case, which has some questioning a decision by the 4th Judicial District to drop two felony charges against the parents of 5-year-old Alexander Perkins remains unresolved.
Arrested and booked into the Teller County jail Sept. 28, Leon Chad Perkins and Krista Perkins were each charged with child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury and child abuse resulting in death.
Advised of their rights by video Sept. 29, the couple was released on personal recognizance and not required to post bond, according to Sheri Porter, Teller County’s court clerk.
The Perkins were arrested despite the autopsy report by El Paso County coroners Robert Bux and Leon Kelly, released Aug. 9, that state the boy died of a colonic bowel obstruction due to encopresis, in effect, severe constipation. “The autopsy reveals no indication of neglect, abuse or maltreatment,” states the report.
The Perkins appeared in district court Nov. 8 and the two felony charges levied against them were dismissed by the DA’s office, represented that day by deputy district attorney, Amy Fitch.
In November, District Attorney Dan May confirmed that the case is not closed.
“Based on the information we have at this time, there is insufficient evidence to file charges,” May said. “There is an open investigation, though, while other things are being looked into.”
Olmsted, who had responded to the “911” call the night Alexander died, also confirmed that the case remains open. “The case is still open but I’ve downgraded its status to ‘open inactive’ until I can develop more evidence, one way or the other,” he said. “We’ve taken a few steps back and are revisiting the case, trying to develop any information I may have missed.”
The night of Aug. 7
Olmsted is still haunted by what happened the night of Aug. 7 when he arrived at the Perkins’ home in Cripple Creek Mountain Estates. “Children never should die; unfortunately, we know that they do,” he said.
When he arrived on the scene, the boy was in the ambulance, ready for transport to Memorial Hospital via the Divide helipad.
“There was a flurry of activity, a lot of people doing what they’re good at, Four Mile, Southwest Hospital ambulance service, and our team who responded initially,” Olmsted said. “We treated it like a crime scene, collecting evidence, taking photos. But even before I left the residence, the little guy had passed away en route to the Divide helipad.”
Olmsted recently acknowledged that notice of the arrest was left out of the regular police reports for the local newspapers that week, as a result of the investigation of the parents.
Byrne, the Teller County coroner who was called to the Divide helipad that evening disagrees with Olmsted and May’s continuing investigation, however.
Both Perkins’ children were diagnosed with encopresis years ago when the family lived in Kansas City, and both wore diapers.
“Some kids don’t take to potty training readily,” Byrne said. “I don’t know why they don’t, but they don’t. So they tend to hold back and get constipated.”
As the condition worsens, the child loses the function of the anal sphincter, Byrne said. “So that’s what developed in the two kids.”
As a result of the children’s condition, the parents received permission to home-school Alexander and his sibling, Byrne said.
On the evening of Aug. 7, the parents were making an effort to take care of Alexander, he added. Two days before his death, he had developed viral gastroenteritis which, Byrne said, eventually led to “necrosis,” that is, tissue dying in the lining at the end of his colon.
“I think this condition allowed bacteria from the bowels to get in the blood stream and he succumbed very rapidly, within 48 hours, and died through blood poisoning by bowel organisms,” Byrne said. “We can’t prove that at autopsy because that happens after death, anyway, so that remains speculative.”
The surviving sibling
Byrne also questions why the surviving sibling was not allowed to remain at home with the parents.
“After their one son died, the other child was taken from them,” he said.
According to Bryan Perkins, the uncle of the two children, Alexander’s sibling was released to them Aug. 10 based on an emergency order signed by 4th Judicial District Judge Ed Colt.
The surviving sibling stayed with the aunt and uncle at their house in Ft. Garland until Aug. 14 when the child was flown to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs due to complications stemming from the condition of encopresis.
According to Bryan Perkins, the child was released from the hospital Sept. 1 and placed with a foster family in another town and county.
Olmsted had an opportunity to check up on the child recently. “(The child is) out of diapers and in school,” he said. “When I saw (the child) last it was just before Halloween and (the child) was so excited because they were going to have a Halloween party at the school.”
The question of whether or not the child and his parents will be allowed to reunite will come under the microscope when a new civil case begins Dec. 2 in the Cripple Creek Courthouse.
Reached by phone and asked about the upcoming hearing, Leon Chad Perkins had no comment.
Timeline of events
Aug. 7— At 11:10 p.m. 5-year-old Alexander Perkins was pronounced dead due to complications from a condition known as encopresis.
Aug. 9— Autopsy results confirm that death was due to encopresis and revealed “no indication of neglect, abuse or maltreatment.”
Aug. 10— Due to an emergency court order, the surviving sibling of Alexander is taken to stay with an aunt and uncle in Ft. Garland.
Aug. 14— Surviving sibling is flown to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs due to similar complications from encopresis.
Sept. 1— Surviving sibling is released from hospital and placed in foster care in other county.
Sept. 28— Leon Chad Perkins and Krista Perkins are arrested and booked into Teller County jail, and charged with child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury and child abuse resulting in death.
Sept. 29—The couple was released on their own personal recognizance at no bond.
Nov. 8— The couple appears in court to have both felony charges against them dismissed by Deputy District Attorney Amy Fitch.
Dec. 2— Scheduled civil hearing set to begin in Cripple Creek regarding the custody of the surviving sibling.
According to Wikipedia, encopresis is commonly caused by constipation, by reflexive withholding of stool, by various physiological, psychological, or neurological disorders.
Traditional treatments recommended by pediatricians are cleaning out with enemas, laxatives or both; using oral stool softeners; and scheduling sitting times on the toilet, typically following meals. The child must be taught to use the toilet regularly to retrain the body.
Alternatively, when this method fails for six months or longer, a more aggressive approach may be undertaken with suppositories and enemas in a carefully-programmed way to overcome the reflexive holding response and allow the proper voiding reflex to take over.
However, Wikipedia acknowledges there are barriers to treatment, such as lack of professionals trained in medical and behavioral elements of treatment, geographic location of specialty providers, the amount of time and cost in delivering treatment and the distress involved for the child.