HOISINGTON, Kan. — A man was arrested Wednesday in the death of his girlfriend’s daughter after a search led to the discovery of the toddler’s body in a rural area of central Kansas, authorities say.
Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir says 23-month-old Iviona Lewis was found dead around 6 a.m. Wednesday on open ground several miles northwest of Hoisington. Twenty-five-year-old Chaz Stephens, of Hoisington, was arrested around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and is jailed on suspicion of second-degree murder, although no formal charges have been filed. Bond is set at $1 million. Bellendir said he didn’t know if Stephens has an attorney.
Hoisingon Chief Kenton Doze said 50 to 100 people searched for Iviona after a caller reported around 4 p.m. Tuesday that the girl hadn’t been seen since around 11 a.m. Sunday. Doze says the girl’s mother had been visiting her brother in Great Bend, and the delay in reporting Iviona’s disappearance stemmed from confusion over who was supposed to be caring for her.
“We are still trying to piece that together as to why that happened that way,” he said of the reporting delay.
Doze declined to say how Iviona died because an autopsy is pending. He said a search was planned of the Hoisington house from which the girl was reported missing. Hoisington is about 100 miles (160.93 kilometers) northwest of Wichita.