2002 - March
A Grave Memorial
community of Spokane,
people were shocked to learn of what Summer Phelps had been through at
the hands of her father and her stepmother.
was a happy,
fun loving little girl who lived with her mother, Elizabeth. One day,
called Summer's father and asked him if the child could go and live
him for a month. Jon Lytle said she could and so Summer went to live
her father, stepmother and her half brother who was six months old at
time. Jon says that Elizabeth never came back to get her daughter and
she had in a sense, abandoned her. Elizabeth never asked for her
back and never tried to regain custody of her.
Here is a slideshow of pictures of 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
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.
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
water and rinse out the towels she had used to clean up the mess as
as her soiled clothing. This seems like a harsh punishment for a five
woke up on March
10, 2007 and his wife was getting up to tend to their son. Summer had
herself and the floor and that soiled laundry was set aside to wait
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.
would take Summer on drives so that she would not "disrupt" the nurse
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
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
to clean and she kept throwing herself onto the floor. At one point,
was there yelling at her what Jon
"a little bit".
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
Kentucky fried Chicken was delivered to their home and Jon realized
Summer had not eaten anything at all since breakfast, she would have
able to eat after cleaning up the laundry.
was at his computer
and watching "South Park" on television when he heard his wife yell for
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
he got dressed and put a coat on Summer. While he was getting ready to
his wife supposedly
killed your daughter"
was examined by police, they noticed more than a few things. On the
of Summer's body, were bruises over both of her hips. Summer also had
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
were palm, finger and hand prints. Summers' face and forehead were
and her eyes were also red and swollen. In the middle of her chest was
what appeared to be a foot print.
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
stages of healing and her rectum
and blue and a clear fluid was leaking from it. The bruises on her
were found to be of the type that are suffered from someone who has
grabbed from behind while being sexually abused.
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
if the case went to trial, due to the aggravating circumstances of the
they have heard Adriana yell "I hate you" at summer. Also heard were,
thuds and splashing during the time before Summer's death. Why didn't ANYONE
call the police?
that Summer had lived with them since August of 2006 and she didn't
it. Adriana said that Summer was defiant, destructive and that she was
a handful, Adriana wished Summer had never come to live with them.
claimed that she had put Summer in the tub and checked on her. She
saw Summer with just her nose sticking up out of the water, blowing
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
the first time that Adriana noticed something was wrong with Summer.
says she tried to do CPR on Summer by putting her foot into the middle
of her chest and pushing up and down.
and Adriana BOTH
admitted to having spanked Summer with a belt, in the previous days.
also admitted to slapping and biting Summer because she had kicked her.
Adriana admitted to the police that Summer looked like an abused child.
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
dollars for each of them.
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
custody from the beginning due to the nature of their crime. They are
separate floors of the jail and receive meals in their cells. They
alone and the only people
allowed to talk to are their attorneys. If they are convicted,
both face life in prison.
November of 2008,
Jon Lytle was found guilty of homicide by abuse. The jury also found
guilty of aggravated circumstances that could keep him in prison for
the rest of his life.
even police detectives said that Summer's case was the worst case of
abuse they had ever seen:
most emotional case I've ever had"
Detective Brian Hamond
Michael P. Price read the verdict out loud. The eight man, four woman
had found Jon guilty. Also included in their verdict was a special
finding him guilty of indifference and cruelty to a vulnerable child as
well as using his position of trust to commit a crime.
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
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
of a sentence beyond that range because of the aggravated circumstances
verdict in the case. Adriana had already plead guilty to homicide by
and was waiting for a sentencing
A sentencing date was not immediately set for Jon's case:
a brief next week for an exceptional sentence. What we ask for will be
and joyful knowing that Summer got justice. That little girl loved her
why he did what he did"
attorney, Edward Carroll, had hired an expert psychologist who claimed,
unsuccessfully that Jon was mentally incapable of standing trial, said:
The system did its job"
Houk, a juror
said that the verdict had come very easily to them:
so much good evidence from the detectives.
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":
well. But after writing down the verdict, we let our emotions out.
Elizabeth to the jurors room before they left:
questions about Summer. We learned she was a happy little girl who
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.
Her favorite color was pink, and she loved being a princess. I think
was behind us in our decision"
Social And Health Services Children's Administration issued an
Child Fatality Review" report in this case. CPS had been given eight
on the case before Summer died. Most of those complaints had come in
she was living with her mother. Elizabeth had claimed that Jon was
Later, Jon contacted CPS to tell them that Elizabeth had abandoned
recommendations were the following:
that help at-risk children should be able to share information that
high-risk families. Summer eventually moved in with her father and
The stepmother’s infant, Summer’s half-brother, was being seen by
and other professionals from Medicaid-funded programs targeting at-risk
mothers and their newborns. But the professionals were unaware of the
2. CPS supervisors
should review every referral, regardless of the decision made after the
screening, keeping in mind the history of the entire family.
may have more experience spotting patterns of recurring and severe
that might be happening over time in a family, as was the case with
nurse) programs restrict services to the childbearing woman and her
The report recommended that DSHS see if options exist to expand the
to other children in the home, based on need.
are limited in what they can do. The do not supersede other
or take personal action or recommend against against DSHS employees.
Death Occurred in the
state of Missouri
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