Summer Phelps
July 6, 2002 - March 10, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial
The community of Spokane, people were shocked to learn of what Summer Phelps had been through at the hands of her father and her stepmother. 

Summer was a happy, fun loving little girl who lived with her mother, Elizabeth. One day, Elizabeth called Summer's father and asked him if the child could go and live with him for a month. Jon Lytle said she could and so Summer went to live with her father, stepmother and her half brother who was six months old at the time. Jon says that Elizabeth never came back to get her daughter and that she had in a sense, abandoned her. Elizabeth never asked for her daughter back and never tried to regain custody of her.

Here is a slideshow of pictures of Summer

Jon said that Summer, who was developmentally disabled, had some bad habits and they included urinating in her clothes and on the floor as well as doing harm to herself. Jon also said that Summer had done damage to their apartment and would throw temper tantrums, he claimed that his wife, Adriana, had taped one of the tantrums that lasted for four hours.

Jon said that when Summer would wet herself, she was made to clean up the mess on her own. The tub would be filled with water and Summer would have to stand in the water and rinse out the towels she had used to clean up the mess as well as her soiled clothing. This seems like a harsh punishment for a five year old girl.

Jon woke up on March 10, 2007 and his wife was getting up to tend to their son. Summer had wet herself and the floor and that soiled laundry was set aside to wait for her. On that day, a First Steps nurse was due to pay a visit. The nurse made regular visits to their home to check on the baby, Johnny Lytle. Jon would take Summer on drives so that she would not "disrupt" the nurse while she was there visiting. On this day, he took her and they ended up in a parking lot. Jon says that he had a discussion with Summer about about cleaning up her messes and trying to be a better little girl. At noon, Jon called home and found that the nurse was still there. At that time, Jon and Summer went to a comic book store before heading home a half hour later.

When they got home, Summer went straight to the bathroom to clean up the laundry she needed to do, no one had even had to ask her, she just went and did it on her own. Jon claims that Summer was angry about the amount of laundry she had to clean and she kept throwing herself onto the floor. At one point, Adriana was there yelling at her what Jon terms as "a little bit".

Later, Adriana put Summer into the tub to take a bath, in what Jon had assumed was clean, fresh water. Supposedly, Adriana kept going in and out of the bathroom, keeping an eye on Summer. At some point in the evening, Kentucky fried Chicken was delivered to their home and Jon realized that Summer had not eaten anything at all since breakfast, she would have been able to eat after cleaning up the laundry.

Jon was at his computer and watching "South Park" on television when he heard his wife yell for him to get into the bathroom. He ran to the bathroom and saw Adriana giving CPR to Summer, on the floor. When Jon realized that the CPR was not working, he got dressed and put a coat on Summer. While he was getting ready to leave, his wife supposedly said to him:

"I think I killed your daughter"

As Summer's body was examined by police, they noticed more than a few things. On the front of Summer's body, were bruises over both of her hips. Summer also had bruises on her arms as well as bite marks that were about the size of the mouth of a small adult. Clearly seen on her body where the bruises were present, were palm, finger and hand prints. Summers' face and forehead were swollen and her eyes were also red and swollen. In the middle of her chest was what appeared to be a foot print.

Behind her ear was a large swollen mass and a great deal of her hair was completely gone. On her back were many linear overlapping bruises and on her bottom was a large, bulbous area with bruising which is consistent with being hit by a large spoon or ladle. Also discovered were MANY bruises in various stages of healing and her rectum was black and blue and a clear fluid was leaking from it. The bruises on her pelvis were found to be of the type that are suffered from someone who has been grabbed from behind while being sexually abused.

Jon and Adriana admitted to using a dog, shock collar on Summer as well as torturing her with a lack of sleep and food. Prosecutors were going to seek an exceptional sentence if the case went to trial, due to the aggravating circumstances of the abuse.

Neighbors said that they have heard Adriana yell "I hate you" at summer. Also heard were, spankings, thuds and splashing during the time before Summer's death. Why didn't ANYONE call the police?

Adriana told police that Summer had lived with them since August of 2006 and she didn't like it. Adriana said that Summer was defiant, destructive and that she was a handful, Adriana wished Summer had never come to live with them. Adriana claimed that she had put Summer in the tub and checked on her. She supposedly saw Summer with just her nose sticking up out of the water, blowing bubbles. 

Adriana says she made Summer drain the water from the tub and when she got back, she saw Summer on the floor with a wet t-shirt over her face. This was supposedly the first time that Adriana noticed something was wrong with Summer. Adrian says she tried to do CPR on Summer by putting her foot into the middle of her chest and pushing up and down. 

Jon and Adriana BOTH admitted to having spanked Summer with a belt, in the previous days. Adriana also admitted to slapping and biting Summer because she had kicked her. Adriana admitted to the police that Summer looked like an abused child.

Jon and Adriana were both charged with murder and plead not guilty in court. The judge said that he was disturbed by the findings in the probably cause reports and he refused to lower the amount of bail that had been set at one half million dollars for each of them.

Due to death threats and hate mail, Jon and Adriana were kept in protective custody, though they were house separately in the Spokane County Jail. They were in protective custody from the beginning due to the nature of their crime. They are on separate floors of the jail and receive meals in their cells. They shower alone and the only people they are allowed to talk to are their attorneys. If they are  convicted, they both face life in prison.

In November of 2008, Jon Lytle was found guilty of homicide by abuse. The jury also found him guilty of aggravated circumstances that could keep him in prison for almost the rest of his life.  

Doctors, nurses and even police detectives said that Summer's case was the worst case of child abuse they had ever seen:

"It was the most emotional case I've ever had" 
Spokane police Detective Brian Hamond 

Superior Court Judge Michael P. Price read the verdict out loud. The eight man, four woman jury had found Jon guilty. Also included in their verdict was a special verdict finding him guilty of indifference and cruelty to a vulnerable child as well as using his position of trust to commit a crime.

As the verdict was read, Elizabeth Phelps cried. Jon stared straight ahead and and showed NO emotion as he was sentenced to stay in jail without bond until his sentencing date. Jack Driscoll, the chief criminal deputy prosecutor said he was happy with the verdict. The standard sentence for homicide by abuse is between 20 and 28 years, however, now there is the possibility of a sentence beyond that range because of the aggravated circumstances verdict in the case. Adriana had already plead guilty to homicide by abuse and was waiting for a sentencing hearing. A sentencing date was not immediately set for Jon's case:

"We'll file a brief next week for an exceptional sentence. What we ask for will be substantial" 
Jack Driscoll 

"I am excited and joyful knowing that Summer got justice. That little girl loved her daddy. 
I don't know why he did what he did" 
Elizabeth Phelps

A court appointed attorney, Edward Carroll, had hired an expert psychologist who claimed, unsuccessfully that Jon was mentally incapable of standing trial, said:

"We're tired. The system did its job"

Dan Houk, a juror said that the verdict had come very easily to them:

"There was so much good evidence from the detectives. 
It was very well done"

Dan Houk said that during the trial and through all of the emotional testimony given along with graphic photos of Summer, they had all just "hung in there":

"We did pretty well. But after writing down the verdict, we let our emotions out. We 
hugged, cried and prayed" 

The jury invited Elizabeth to the jurors room before they left:

"We asked Elizabeth questions about Summer. We learned she was a happy little girl who 
loved to play. Her favorite color was pink, and she loved being a princess. I think the 
community was behind us in our decision" 
Dan Houk

Jon Lytle was sentenced to 75 years in prison. This was the longest homicide by abuse sentence in history of Washington State. Adriana was sentenced to 62 1/2 years.

The Department Of Social And Health Services Children's Administration issued an "Executive Child Fatality Review" report in this case. CPS had been given eight referrals on the case before Summer died. Most of those complaints had come in when she was living with her mother. Elizabeth had claimed that Jon was sexually

abusing Summer. Later, Jon contacted CPS to tell them that Elizabeth had abandoned Summer.

Among the reports recommendations were the following:

1. Agencies that help at-risk children should be able to share information that identifies high-risk families. Summer eventually moved in with her father and stepmother. The stepmother’s infant, Summer’s half-brother, was being seen by nurses and other professionals from Medicaid-funded programs targeting at-risk mothers and their newborns. But the professionals were unaware of the family’s CPS history.

2. CPS supervisors should review every referral, regardless of the decision made after the screening, keeping in mind the history of the entire family. Supervisors may have more experience spotting patterns of recurring and severe abuse that might be happening over time in a family, as was the case with Summer’s family.

3. The (visiting nurse) programs restrict services to the childbearing woman and her infant. The report recommended that DSHS see if options exist to expand the services to other children in the home, based on need.

Child Fatality Reviews are limited in what they can do. The do not supersede other investigations or take personal action or recommend against against DSHS employees.

Death Occurred in the state of Missouri

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