March 16, 2007 in City

Girl’s stepmom also was abused, relative says

Christopher Rodkey Staff writer

Coming up

Our Kids: Our Business

On April 1, The Spokesman-Review will begin publishing a comprehensive examination of child abuse in the Inland Northwest. Reporters have spent months exploring the causes of abuse, the people and programs that help prevent abuse and the factors that make communities safe for children, in recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Today in Northwest

Coalition urges state lawmakers to increase funding for early learning programs to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Page B2

The woman whom police say killed her 4-year-old stepdaughter last weekend has been in and out of trouble and was sexually abused as a child, her half-sister said this week.

Adriana L. Lytle and Doloree Staton had the same father, Philip Archer Midwood, who died in 2000 in Las Vegas. Staton said when her sister was growing up, Adriana Lytle and her father carried on a sexual relationship.

“They went so far as to try to make themselves husband and wife and to try to get pregnant,” Staton said during a phone interview from Western Washington.

Adriana Lytle and her husband, Jonathan Lytle, are accused of abusing and killing his daughter, Summer Phelps, previously known in court records as Summer Lytle.

The abusive cycle that began with Adriana Lytle’s father continued, Staton said, when she invited her half-sister to live with her in an attempt to get her clean and off drugs. Though things began well, Staton said Adriana Lytle’s presence soon became a major difficulty for the family.

One of Staton’s puppies was playing with Lytle when the dog nipped the woman, said Staton’s daughter, Rebecca Midwood, 21.

Adriana Lytle responded by picking up the dog and biting it in the leg, causing the puppy to yelp, Midwood said.

“For the period of time that I knew her, there was always something wrong with her,” she added. “She lied about everything and always wanted attention.”

As for the man Adriana Lytle later married, people who worked with Jonathan D. Lytle, 28, said Thursday that he kept to himself and was a hard worker.

“I don’t have anything negative to say about him when he was here,” said Kyle Krug of Fluid Design Products, a welding company in the Valley that coincidentally had fliers up promoting a child abuse fundraiser lunch this month. “He was actually a pleasant and nice guy. You could go up to him and kick him, and he wouldn’t react.”

Lytle worked at the shop for about three months one year ago, but Krug had to lay him off because he didn’t need Lytle’s services any longer.

“I wouldn’t have hired him if I had a bad vibe from him,” Krug said.

Summer Phelps’ biological mother, Elizabeth Phelps, of Poulsbo, Wash., came to Spokane on Wednesday after her father found out while watching CNN that afternoon that Summer had died.

She spoke with police and collapsed in her father’s arms when viewing funerary urns Thursday in Spokane, said Spokane Police Chaplain Ron Alter, who was with her.

Elizabeth Phelps “would like to thank the Spokane community for all the love and support extended to her and Summer’s family this week,” Alter said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Phelps said she wanted donations to be sent to agencies that work to prevent child abuse, Alter said.

Phelps headed back to Poulsbo late Thursday and declined requests for interviews.

Alter said Phelps was nothing like Jonathan Lytle’s descriptions during police interviews.

“My impression is that she looked healthy and clean,” Alter said.

A friend of Elizabeth Phelps, Jerry Henderson, said Phelps had tried numerous times to get Summer back, and he described the woman as a “loving and caring mother.”

“Anyone that saw her around her daughter Summer knows that,” Henderson said.

He denied allegations by the Lytles that Elizabeth dropped off Summer in Spokane in August 2006 and didn’t return for her. Henderson said Jonathan Lytle came to Poulsbo and picked up the girl.

Every time Elizabeth Phelps called Jonathan Lytle to arrange to pick up the girl, the man gave a different reason why Summer could not leave, Henderson said.

According to court papers filed early this week, Jonathan Lytle told police that he “frequently told Adriana to go easy on Summer so her bruises could heal, and she could be returned to her mother.”

Meanwhile, in that same document, Adriana Lytle told police that she had spoken to Summer to establish order, saying, “My house, my rules. … You’re not at Mommy’s house anymore.”

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email