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A Kansas father won’t fight charges accusing him of brutally killing his 3-year-old daughter, then discarding her body in the woods and reporting her missing in 2020. Howard Jansen III formally pleaded no contest to one count of second-degree murder and myriad other charges in connection with the slaying of Olivia Jansen, the Wyandotte County DA’s office confirmed to Law&Crime on Tuesday.
According a report from Topeka-based NBC affiliate KSNT, Jansen reached a deal with prosecutors that required him to enter a no contest plea to the murder charge in addition to three counts of aggravated endangerment of a child, one count of abuse of a child, and one count of interference with law enforcement. In exchange, prosecutors reduced the first-degree murder charge Jansen was initially facing. The plea was entered last week.
Jansen’s then-girlfriend Jacqulyn A. Kirkpatrick in November pleaded guilty to one count each of second-degree murder and abuse of a child under the age of six in Olivia’s death. As previously reported by Law&Crime, a judge in December sentenced her to serve 376 months (31 years and 3 months) in prison, meaning her earliest possible date of release is 2047. Her plea deal included an agreement to testify against Jansen at trial.
During Kirkpatrick’s November plea hearing before Wyandotte County District Court Judge Michael A. Russell, prosecutors recounted in graphic detail the abuse Olivia suffered at the hands of Kirkpatrick and Jansen in the months before she was savagely beaten to death.
Prosecutors reportedly told the court that the couple would keep Olivia “locked in a dog kennel at her home” and would force her to stand in the corner of a room for multiple hours without sitting down. Other children in the home reportedly told investigators that Kirkpatrick would often push Olivia’s head into the walls.
According to court documents, prosecutors alleged that Kirkpatrick and Jansen falsely reported Olivia missing in an effort to trigger an Amber Alert on July 10, 2020. Jansen reportedly called 911 at approximately 8:30 a.m. and told a dispatcher that he woke up two hours earlier to find Olivia missing and the back door of his house on Gibbs Road had been left wide open.
An Amber Alert was issued triggering a multi-agency search for Olivia, but the search was called off that evening when authorities found Olivia’s body approximately nine blocks from Jansen’s home, in a wooded area in the 3400 block of Steele Road, near South 34th Street. Investigators said an anonymous tip led them to the girl’s remains, according to Kansas City-based ABC affiliate KMBC-TV.
Olivia’s body was found buried in a shallow grave dug in the dirt, prosecutors reportedly said. She was dressed in her pajamas and reportedly had “severe bruising” covering her face, arms, and legs, as well as multiple lacerations on the back of her head indicating that she had been beaten to death. A subsequent autopsy determined that Olivia’s manner death was a homicide and the cause of death was a severe brain bleed.
Jansen and Kirkpatrick were arrested that evening.
The case also brought attention to the perceived shortcomings of the Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF).
Elisabeth Jansen, Olivia’s grandmother, on June 22, 2020 contacted DCF to report that Olivia’s caregivers were abusing drugs. In addition to the drug abuse, she also reportedly said she was afraid of Howard’s short temper. An agent spoke to Olivia on June 30 and on July 7, and Howard Jansen tested positive for THC, but the agency said there wasn’t sufficient evidence for authorities to take Olivia out of his custody.
DCF initially balked at releasing the case summary and records, but the agency put out the summary after determining that Olivia’s death was due to child abuse. The full 533-page case file, including the report on the investigation into Olivia’s death, has not been released to the public.
[image via Wyandotte County Detention Center]
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