A 15-year-old Meeker boy who was found starving and living inside his family's barn, is making a recovery.
Case investigators say when the victim was found weighed less than 80 pounds, and had been eating twigs and leaves to stay alive.
He has since gained weight, but he is awaiting surgery, according to First Assistant District Attorney Adam Panter.
Doctors told Panter they still have to remove the plant debris from his stomach.
“It's a guarantee that if investigators and DHS had not made it out to the house that day, he would have been dead,” said Panter.
A passerby noticed the boy and called for help, according to investigators.
DHS and task force members have made regular visits to the victim in the hospital.
Investigators said they found the child with severe wounds across his body, and a deep gash to his head.
The 15-year-old's father Jimmy Jones Sr, stepmother Amy Jones and stepbrothers Johnathan Plank and Tyler Adkins, have all been charged for their involvement in the boy’s condition.
Unfortunately, Panter said, for other children living in Lincoln and Pottawatomie Counties, emergency calls for help came too late.
Panter points to the case of 2-year-old Braxton Danker who died from just a few months ago.
Braxton’s mother, Judith Danker, and her boyfriend, Khristian Tyler Martzall, were both charged with his murder.
Panter said Braxton’s condition was one of the most disturbing cases that he’s investigated over the past 10 years.
He added cases like this are on the rise in 2018 within his jurisdiction.
“Right now, we have five pending murder cases involving children from ages two years down to three months old,” said Panter.
As for state numbers, DHS has record of 15,289 substantiated cases of abuse and neglect in fiscal year 2017.
State number for child deaths are measured in federal fiscal year data.
“That's a little bit different, but there were 22 deaths. Child deaths that were confirmed to be due to child abuse or neglect. There is also additional reports that are being reviewed, medical examiner reports, that could slightly increase that number,” said Casey White, Communications Manager DHS.
She said that often DHS cases do not reach an extreme outcome. Her agency recommends neighbors and community members intervene early when possible.
White said sometimes this could be offering to help struggling a family member or friends.
“Sometimes family need someone need them to help watch their kids while they are working another shift at work,” she said. “We really think it takes a village to raise kids.”
Of course, both agencies encourage others to be on the lookout.
White also said you don’t need specific proof to report abuse or neglect.
If you can supply reliable information, then investigators can search for answers themselves.
They ask others to remember someone just passing by helped saved the life of a 15-year-old Meeker victim.
Had someone else acted in other child abuse cases, five other children in Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties would still be alive.
“Every child abuse murder case we have pending right now had prior injuries. There was some awareness out there that the children were being abused,” said Panter.
DHS says when trying to identify abuse or neglect there are some apparent red flags:
If you or someone you know needs help please reach out to DHS at 1-800-522-3511. You have the ability to remain anonymous.