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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Our View: Summer Phelps report illustrates need for reform

The child fatality review in the Summer Phelps case punctuates the state’s arduous journey in reforming the way it goes about protecting vulnerable children. Before the 4-year-old girl’s horrible death at the hands of her father in March 2007, Washington’s child welfare system had endured a failed federal audit, a class-action lawsuit by former foster children and other high-profile fatalities. Robin Arnold-Williams has come and gone as director of the Department of Social and Health Services, and Cheryl Stephani, former director of the state’s Children Administration, has also moved on. Both arrived in 2005 amid controversies. The previous Children’s Administration director lasted only 19 months.

Phelps report urges agencies to share data

Concerns about Summer Phelps – the 4-year-old who died in Spokane in 2007 at the hands of her father and stepmother – were reported eight times to Washington’s Child Protective Services. Yet other agencies involved with the family were unaware of the history and extent of abuse and neglect complaints. A review of the case recommended that agencies that help at-risk children should have access to such information to “ensure the coordination of services” and protect vulnerable children. The “executive child fatality review” was posted Friday on Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services Children’s Administration Web site.

Abusive stepmother gets 62.5 years in girl’s death

Adriana Lytle, severely abused as a child herself, was sentenced to 62 1/2 years in prison Friday for her role in a cycle of beatings and torture that killed her stepdaughter, 4-year-old Summer Phelps. Lytle, 34, pleaded guilty last year to homicide by abuse in the death of Summer, the daughter of her husband, Jonathan Lytle.

Defense says stepmother deserves break

Adriana Lytle’s addicted mother injected methamphetamine when Adriana was in the womb. Her mother’s boyfriends and her father sexually abused her. She suffered from mental illness and abused drugs. She met her husband, Jonathan Lytle, in a homeless shelter in Mount Vernon, Wash., court documents say. Lytle’s life has been a “history of hell,” according to defense psychologists who will testify today at her sentencing for her role in the death of her stepdaughter, 4-year-old Summer Phelps.

Lytle term is longest ever under abuse statute

Jonathan Lytle, convicted by a Spokane jury of homicide by abuse last year for the death of his 4-year-old daughter, was sentenced Thursday to 75 years in prison – effectively a life sentence for the 30-year-old welder. The sentence, imposed by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price, is the longest homicide by abuse term imposed since the Washington Legislature created the statute in 1987, according to court briefs prepared in the high-profile, emotional child abuse case.

Summer’s father to receive sentence

There’s a difference of nearly 50 years in the sentencing recommendations for Jonathan Lytle, the man convicted in November of homicide by abuse in the torture death of his daughter, 4-year-old Summer Phelps. The Spokane County prosecutor’s office asked for an exceptional sentence of 75 years for Lytle, 30, while Lytle’s lawyers say the sentence shouldn’t exceed 26 1/2 years, the high end of the range for homicide by abuse for someone with no prior criminal record.

Prosecutors seeking 75 years for Lytle

There’s a nearly 50-year difference in the sentencing recommendations for Jonathan Lytle, the father convicted last November of homicide by abuse in the torture death of his daughter, 4-year old Summer Phelps.

Expert says hair came from Summer’s head

Red hair found by police in the Spokane apartment where 4-year-old Summer Phelps died was mostly pulled from her head and matched her DNA, a forensic expert testified Thursday in her father’s trial. Jonathan Lytle is accused of homicide by abuse in the death of his daughter, who was beaten, bitten and shocked with a dog bark collar. She drowned in the family bathtub on March 10, 2007, after being forced to wash urine-soaked clothes for hours.

Girl’s abuse unnoticed by neighbors, nurses

Although there were troubling clues, 4-year-old Summer Phelps’ severe abuse remained invisible to the nurses who visited her family and went unreported by the residents of the Spokane apartment building where she lived. That’s according to testimony Tuesday in the Spokane County Superior Court trial of Jonathan Lytle, Summer’s father, who is charged with homicide by abuse.

Lytle interview excerpt

Excerpt of a police interview with Jonathan Lytle, who is going to trial on homicide by abuse charges.

Father didn’t kill Summer, attorneys say

Attorneys for Jonathan Lytle, accused of homicide by abuse in the death of his 4-year-old daughter, said he was not in the room the day the girl was repeatedly submerged in a bathtub as punishment and “did not dunk her.” Instead, Lytle’s court-appointed attorneys said in a trial brief filed Thursday that evidence will show Lytle’s wife, Adriana Lytle, “repeatedly dunked the little girl in the bathtub as part of her punishment for urinating in her clothes … and that such dunking in fact led to her death.”

Lytle attorneys plan to blame wife

Defense attorneys for Jonathan Lytle, accused of torturing his daughter to death last year, indicated Thursday they would try to lay all the blame on the 4-year-old’s stepmother when his homicide by abuse trial begins Monday. Lytle’s wife, Adriana Lytle, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in the death of Summer Phelps, who was beaten, bitten and burned before she died in a Spokane hospital in March 2007. On Thursday, Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price heard motions by the defense and prosecution in advance of the father’s trial.

Judge denies Lytle trial venue change

Jonathan Lytle likely can get a fair trial in Spokane despite extensive news coverage of the alleged homicide by abuse of his 4-year-old daughter, a Spokane County Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday. Judge Michael P. Price denied a change of venue request by Lytle’s court-appointed lawyers. The ruling is provisional and the trial could be moved if an impartial jury can’t be chosen for Lytle’s Oct. 13 trial, Price said in his oral ruling.

Judge rules Lytle fit for trial in 4-year-old daughter’s death

Jonathan Lytle is competent to stand trial in the homicide by abuse of his 4-year-old daughter, Summer Phelps, a Spokane County Superior Court Judge ruled on Monday. Judge Michael Price lifted a stay on the trial, saying that while Lytle may be disagreeable, that doesn’t mean he’s incompetent to assist in his own defense. The trial is scheduled to start Oct. 13.

Father gets competency hearing

The father of 4-year-old torture-beating victim Summer Phelps is demanding a court hearing on his mental competence to stand trial on homicide-by-abuse charges. Jonathan Lytle refused at a Superior Court hearing Friday to sign an order releasing the criminal case against him, put on hold six weeks ago when he was ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination.