Thursday, February 7, 2013
A 20-month-old boy is dead. He allegedly had stomp marks on his body, and no one has been arrested in his death. Coltan Downtain was murdered 15 years ago.
It happened in Dodge City, a place where the legends of murderers are those of gunfights on Boot Hill in the Old West.
But in this cold case, the toddler’s grandparents say Coltan’s murder was much more brutal. For years, they have been fighting to find out who killed him.
Lloyd and Gwen Clites have only one picture of their grandson. The others were lost in a house fire. But the last little portrait has been enough to keep them pushing for over a decade to find out how Coltan was murdered.
Coltan lived in a small Dodge City home with his parents and brother in 1997. In the early morning hours of January 27th of that year, while Coltan’s father was out of town, something went terribly wrong.
And then, apparently minutes later, Coltan’s mother dropped him off at his babysitter’s home, carried him into the bedroom and laid him in the crib.
“After about 30 to 45 minutes, babysitter was getting nervous because he wasn’t doing nothing,” Lloyd said. “So she went in to check him; something wasn’t right.”
The babysitter called EMS and the toddler was rushed to Western Plains Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.
“I just want that answer,” Lloyd said. “Why?”
“Get it settled. Get an answer,” Gwen Clites said. “Why the way it was done.”
And just as important, the Clites want to know who would murder their son’s little boy in such a cruel way.
“I was told by an officer out there that little Coltan was stomped so bad there were footprints on his head and chest, and he was stomped so bad that his intestines were severed in half,” Gwen said.
The Clites have pleaded for help from authorities since 1997. They have made dozens of phone calls and trips: to the Dodge City Police, the Ford County Sheriff, the state attorney general and even the governor. In September, Dodge City even highlighted Coltan’s murder as an unsolved crime. There was hope, but still no action.
Frustrated than an investigation into their grandson’s murder hasn’t been active for years, the Clites say the scenario of how things happened that day should give police a place to start.
“When he was dropped off at the babysitter's, the mother told her that he wasn't feeling good and was just sleeping,” Lloyd said.
Less than an hour later, Coltan was taken to the hospital where he died.
Because the Clites moved to Wichita years ago, on a windy Dodge City day, Lloyd saw his grandson’s headstone for the first time.
“It just hurts,” he said. “I know he's in a better place, but it still hurts. How could anybody do something like that to a baby?”
Gwen and Lloyd say until the day they join their grandson in heaven, they will continue to plead for help in solving Coltan’s murder.”
Coltan’s father, the Clites’ son, turned to alcohol and drugs after his child’s murder, not able to handle the fact that he was not there to protect Coltan that day. He is now on disability and lives in western Kansas. Coltan’s mother and brother live in Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, for the first time in years, Dodge City police called the Clites last week to tell them a new detective has just been assigned to their grandson’s murder. We’ll keep you posted.