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Judge sentences Las Vegas couple to prison in death of disabled son

Updated November 10, 2022 - 8:13 pm

A judge on Wednesday sentenced a Las Vegas couple to state prison for child abuse and neglect in the death of their 14-year-old disabled son who weighed only 22 pounds when he died.

Kristin and James Bush were led away in handcuffs after District Judge Carolyn Ellsworth ordered them to serve at least 28 months and up to 10 years behind bars. The criminal case against the couple began in 2017, two years after the death of Evan Bush.

Ellsworth chastised the couple for not ensuring that Evan and his disabled brother, Michael, received the medical care they needed, even though they had the financial means to do so, and at one point had medical insurance covering themselves but not the two boys.

During one of the visits Clark County’s Child Protective Services made to the Bush home, one of the children was filthy from not bathing for a long time, had chapped lips and decaying teeth, the judge said.

“This is one of the most troubling cases I’ve heard,” Ellsworth said before pronouncing the sentence. “I have never seen someone as vulnerable as I’ve seen in this case.”

Evan and Michael were born with rare genetic conditions affecting their brain functions, according to court records.

Evan suffered from Joubert syndrome, where the brain fails to develop, affecting the person’s balance and coordination.

The Clark County coroner’s office ruled that the boy’s death did not amount to a homicide, concluding that he died from a twisted intestine, but the ruling also cited malnutrition as a contributing factor.

Prosecutors alleged that Evan’s parents did not not feed him enough, leading to his malnutrition. When Evan was 4 years, 2 months old, he weighed 27.5 pounds. Ten years later when he was 14, he weighed even less — only 22 pounds.

Michael, 23, has a birth defect known as bilateral perisylvian polymicrogyria, a neurological disorder associated with intellectual impairment. He is confined to a wheelchair and requires home care and therapy.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dena Rinetti said that the parents did not set up medical care for Evan and Michael from 2006 to 2012.

“They made a conscious decision to do nothing,” Rinetti told the judge.

Rinetti also criticized Child Protective Services for not handling the children’s cases better.

Both defendants were convicted of one count each of child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm, a felony.

Ellworth granted their request to offer an Alford plea, in which they did not admit guilt but accepted the facts in the case as presented by prosecutors, said Jack Buchanan, the couple’s lawyer.

Buchanan tried to argue in favor of probation or a suspended sentence, saying that Michael should have his parents at home to provide care and support.

“These are not horrible people,” Buchanan said. “We don’t believe that prison would be appropriate.”

With the couple headed to prison, Michael’s grandmother will be his caregiver in the family home, Buchanan said.

Kristin Bush told Ellworth in court that Michael “has had a very, very loving family” and they did not want anything to happen to him should they be sent away to prison.

“Our family has been destroyed by this,” she said.

James Bush, who is not the boys’ biological father, said that they “were very blessed to have these children” and it “would break (Michael’s) heart” if they could not be at home with him.

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on Twitter.

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