Judge grants parents' request in bid to disprove infant's death was linked to child abuse

November 27, 2013

By: Tony Arnold and Chris Fusco

Chicago Sun-Times/Jessica Koscielniak
Kevin and Jaclyn Kalous leave the Kane County courthouse in downtown Geneva Tuesday. They’re seeking custody of their 3-year-old son after their 9-month-old daughter, Jillian, died in 2012. A medical examiner ruled her death a homicide from child abuse, though nobody has been charged criminally.

An Elgin couple seeking to disprove that their infant daughter “died of blunt head trauma due to child abuse” will have more time to try to overturn that finding in hopes of regaining custody of their young son, a judge ruled Tuesday.

More than 30 supporters of Kevin and Jaclyn Kalous packed the lobby of the Kane County courthouse in downtown Geneva, many of them hugging the couple before Judge Linda Abrahamson heard their case.

Their son, 3-year-old Bradley Kalous, was removed from their home on Oct. 30, 2012, shortly after his sister Jillian was hospitalized for a second time with suspected child-abuse injuries.

Jillian Kalous died on Nov. 2, 2012, at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, where doctors had been treating her for “massive brain swelling and visible bruising on both inner thighs.” She was 9 months old, and the Cook County Medical Examiner ruled her death a homicide.

Nobody has been criminally charged, but Jillian’s death remains under investigation by the Elgin Police Department.

Her case was among those profiled in a recent Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ investigation that found that the number of children dying while being investigated or monitored by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is on the rise. The news organizations filed a written request to attend Bradley Kalous’ custody hearing; such proceedings are normally closed to the public.

DCFS first suspected Jillian was being abused when she was hospitalized with multiple broken bones when she was 3 months old. Within days, DCFS — working with the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office — removed both Jillian and her brother from Kevin Kalous, 37, and Jaclyn Kalous, 31, placing the children with relatives.

Abrahamson signed off on the children going back home on July 31, 2012, based in part on their parents being cooperative with child-welfare officials and having positive interactions with their children during supervised visits. Kevin and Jaclyn Kalous also agreed to have another caregiver in their home for 30 days.

On Tuesday, lawyers for the state’s attorney’s office and DCFS were set to begin arguing that the couple should permanently lose custody of Bradley Kalous based on testimony from medical experts that his sister’s injuries were abuse-related.

But those arguments didn’t happen because the couple’s attorneys produced a letter from a Vanderbilt University physician who recently reviewed Jillian’s medical history and concluded her death likely was caused by an “underlying bleeding disorder,” not child abuse.

“The family . . . all they want is the truth, and they believe this doctor could help the court,” Kalous attorney Todd D. Cohen said.

Abrahamson agreed to hear more information from the doctor and set another hearing for next month.

Kevin and Jaclyn Kalous are now allowed to see Bradley Kalous two hours a week. The boy is staying with Kevin Kalous’ father and was not in court.

Abrahamson dismissed a request to extend visitation hours.

“Bradley is well-cared for. His needs are being met,” she said. Still, she conceded, “This is a dreadful time of year to have a child or children in state care.”

Chris Fusco is a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. Follow him @fuscochris.

Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics and government for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.

Becky Schlikerman from the Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report.