2-Year-Old James Ryker Biel Dies Under Suspicious Circumstances, But Police Won’t Investigate Even After Second Autopsy

James Ryker Biel
James Ryker Biel.
(Provided)

Prepare to get angry, you guys. 

We’ve seen DCS failures before; we’ve seen cases in which one parent is treated unfairly by the family court system; and we’ve seen cases in which the police are either inept or corrupt.

Rarely do we see a case in which all of those things took place simultaneously, and very rarely do we see one as egregious or infuriating as this case.

I’ll begin with the tragic death of a beloved little boy that resulted from the convergence of those factors.

Trick-or-treating was over for most kids, who were home with their stashes of candy by 9:50 PM on Thursday, October 31, 2019 when police responded to a medical emergency in the 1300 block of East Evergreen Drive, located in northwest suburban Palatine, Illinois.

Inside the house, two-year-old James Ryker Biel was unresponsive on his grandfather’s bed, although neither the boy’s grandfather, Jerry Biel, nor Jerry’s wife, Halina, seemed to know what had happened to him. They said James had been on Jerry’s bed, playing with an electronic device, when Halina left the room to take a shower. When she returned, she thought James was sleeping, but she noticed her grandson’s lips were blue. 

James and his father, Thomas Biel.
(Facebook)

James’s father, 31-year-old Thomas Jerry Biel, told police he had left for work at 9:35 PM, at which time, by his account, James was healthy and “responsive.” Because the little guy felt warm, Thomas told police he planned to take James to the pediatrician the following morning. 

In the police report, a “small red bubble” is noted as coming out of James’s nostril in addition to red-colored foam present in his mouth. His tongue was also swollen, and there was a cut on his lip.

James was rushed to Northwest Community Hospital in the nearby city of Arlington Heights, but, tragically, it was too late; according to police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office, despite the efforts of paramedics and medical staff, James Ryker Biel, who had just celebrated his second birthday earlier that month, was pronounced dead at 10:34 PM.

James with his mommy, Kara Witkowski.
(Facebook)

James’s mother, now-24-year-old Kara Witkowski of Elgin, Illinois, later said, “Holding his lifeless body and staring into a face I knew I would not be able to breathe life into was the most painful and heart shattering experience of my life.”

I can only imagine. My heart is broken for her. 

Within 24 hours, before an autopsy was even conducted, the Palatine Police Department decided that foul play was not suspected.

How and why could they possibly have known that without investigating? 

This story is going to get much darker and more twisted than you can imagine. Strap in.

At the time of James’s death, his mother, Kara, and his father, Thomas, were in the midst of a custody battle. Kara kept meticulous documentation, including court and medical paperwork and photographs, of everything that happened to not only her, but to her children. Nonetheless, DCFS, the Palatine and Elgin police departments, and the Kane County family court system ignored her warnings, and now, as we see entirely too often, her son is dead. 

Kara Witkowski and Thomas Biel were together for about five years. According to Kara, the entire relationship was fraught with domestic abuse, both physical and psychological. In August of 2018, the relationship took a turn for the worse when Thomas, Kara said, raped her. He told her at that time that he suffered from Dissociative Personality Disorder (DID), Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and when he assured her that he was going to see a therapist and get help, Kara, like many abuse victims, agreed to stay in the relationship and help him get better. 

Thomas Biel.
(Facebook)

Throughout the remainder of their relationship, Thomas repeatedly threatened Kara’s life and assaulted her in front of the children. Finally, on March 19, 2019, he raped and assaulted her again, which is evidenced by screenshots of messages between Kara and Thomas in which he freely admits to his crimes. 

Kara made plans to leave Thomas, take the children, and stay with some friends in New Hampshire. When she went to work that day, Thomas somehow found out about her plans to leave, showed up at her workplace, and asked her, “How could you do the one thing that would make me kill myself?”

Another common tactic by a seasoned manipulator. 

After Kara’s boss repeatedly told Thomas to leave, he did so, but he called Kara and told her that because their relationship was over, he could finally tell her the truth, confessing that he never went to therapy and had been lying about it all along. He also confessed that he made up his diagnosis of DID in order to continue abusing and raping her.

In their messages, Kara asked if the children were in danger, and Thomas said that he was probably a greater danger to the children than to her, because he cared more about her than he did about them, essentially admitting he saw the children as property.

  • Kara Witkowski Tom Biel screenshots
  • Kara Witkowski Tom Biel screenshots
  • Kara Witkowski Tom Biel screenshots
  • Kara Witkowski Tom Biel screenshots
  • Kara Witkowski Tom Biel screenshots

Afraid for the lives of herself and her children, a three-year-old daughter I’ll call S.W. and little James, who was about one and a half, Kara reported the most recent assault to the Elgin Police Department on March 22, 2019, bringing with her all of the documentation she had gathered thus far, including the messages in which Thomas admitted to his criminal behavior.

At that point, the police department notified DCFS of the situation. Kara was granted an order of protection, and Thomas was removed from the home within two hours. 

At that point, Thomas had been using Kara’s car; although she did not have a license, the car was in her name because it had been purchased using her credit. (Another red flag: narcissists and psychopaths often have a history of bad financial decisions and ruined credit.) When the car was returned to Kara a few days later, she decided to clean it out. In the spare tire compartment beneath the floor of the trunk, Kara found a hard drive she recognized as Thomas’s. 

Elgin Illinois Police Department
Elgin Police Department.
(City of Elgin)

On that hard drive, in a file titled “LOL,” Kara found thousands of anime images of prepubescent children and adults performing sexual acts on each other.

Horrified, Kara contacted Sergeant Kattie Phillips of the Elgin Police Department, who asked her to bring the drive to the police department. Sergeant Phillips also notified DCFS about the material found on the hard drive.

On March 25, Kara noticed several small bruises on the back of her three-year-old daughter’s leg. S.W. told her that her grandpa, Thomas’s father, Jerry Biel, had hit her and touched her private areas. Kara took S.W. to their pediatrician, who was very concerned and contacted the Palatine Police, as the alleged offenses took place at Jerry and Mary Biel’s house in Palatine. Kara noted that S.W. was disturbingly comfortable with the doctor disrobing her and examining her private areas. The Palatine Police opened an investigation into Jerry Biel. 

Thomas, Halina, and Jerry Biel
Thomas Biel, his stepmother Halina, and his father Jerry in 2014.
(Facebook)

Kara had expressed her concern to Thomas in the past about his father’s treatment of their young daughter. For example, Jerry had previously slept in the same bed as S.W., wearing only his boxers, and he often found reasons to remove S.W.’s clothing. Kara had always been uncomfortable with leaving their children alone with Jerry, but Thomas never took her concerns into consideration, often leaving the children with his parents while Kara was at work, sometimes working two to three jobs at a time when Thomas himself was unemployed. (Yet another red flag: this type of person tends to have a hard time holding down a steady job.)

The family court judge presiding over their case was John G. Dalton, who has since not only recused himself from the case but also been removed as a family court judge, instead presiding over evictions and property arbitration cases. A blog called The First Ward, which claims to report “the straight scoop on Illinois politics,” has posted a number of times about Judge Dalton and his problematic behavior and connections. 

The children were assigned a guardian ad litem named Julie Pirtle. The guardian ad litem (GAL) is a court-appointed attorney whose job is to investigate a case and make recommendations to the court; their job is to work in the best interests of the child. Keep that in mind as we go forward. 

At a court hearing on April 11, 2019 regarding Kara’s order of protection against Thomas, Kara’s attorney, Melissa Kuffel, brought all of Kara’s evidence, including screenshots of the incriminating messages. Judge Dalton granted Kara a two-year plenary order of protection, which listed S.W. and James as protected parties due to the remarks Thomas made about being a danger to them, and ordered that both parents undergo mandated psychological evaluations. Kara had hers done right away. Whether Thomas was ever evaluated remains unknown, because no documentation was ever entered into evidence or provided to Kara or her attorney showing that he had undergone the exam.

Attorney Melissa Kuffel
Attorney Melissa Kuffel.
(Mulyk Laho Law)

After the hearing, Kara’s attorney called her and told her the judge had decided — without holding another hearing — that Thomas would be granted unsupervised visits with S.W. and James. Keep in mind that Judge Dalton had already been informed about the possible child pornography found on Thomas’s hard drive as well as the mental health conditions, rape, and domestic violence Thomas had admitted. Nonetheless, the children were scheduled to visit their father, unsupervised, about a week later.

When Kara’s children returned home after the unsupervised mid-April visit, she was dismayed to find a dark gray and yellow bruise on the back of her daughter’s thigh, just below her bottom. The back of her leg was “scratched up,” and there was an alarming gray/blue mark across her lower back that looked, Kara said, like a “strap mark.” S.W.’s private area was extremely red and looked “open.” 

Palatine Illinois Police Headquarters
Palatine Police Headquarters.
(Wikimapia)

Highly concerned, Kara brought her daughter to the Palatine Police Department and met with Officer Nicholas Hertz, whom she informed about the child pornography investigation regarding Thomas’s hard drive. She also told him that Jerry Biel was under investigation for child molestation and showed him photos of her daughter’s bruising. A friend of Kara’s also witnessed the bruise, which was documented in the police report written about the incident.

According to the report, “[Friend] referred specifically to seeing bruises on [S.W.’s] legs on 4/19/19. I advised [friend] that I had seen [S.W.] here at the station on 4/20/19 and she had been examined by DCFS and no bruises were observed.”

That’s not what medical records show. An officer escorted Kara, her mother, and S.W. to Northwest Community Hospital, where S.W. was photographed and diagnosed with “contusions and domestic concerns.”

(Provided)

After S.W.’s exam, the police officer advised Kara to take her daughter to Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago for a full sexual assault exam. The physician at Northwest said she did not think it was necessary, and by this time, it was about 4:00 AM, so Kara declined the officer’s suggestion, hoping to spare her three-year-old daughter further trauma.

The next day at work, Kara received a call from a Dr. Gregory at Lurie Hospital saying she was highly concerned about the report they received from Northwest Hospital and wanted Kara to bring S.W. in. Kara scheduled her daughter to be seen the following Monday.

Lurie Children's Hospital
Lurie Children’s Hospital.
(Wikipedia)

Just minutes later, Dr. Gregory called Kara back, saying she would be unable to perform the exam, as DCFS investigator Amanda Patricoski had informed her there was not an open investigation regarding molestation of S.W. Kara told her that was untrue and that she had paperwork documenting the investigation against Jerry Biel, so Dr. Gregory agreed to see her daughter. 

Kara said, “My daughters behavior was incredibly concerning at her appointment, she grabbed an attendants breast, did not notice or acknowledge when she was swabbed anally and opened herself for her vaginal exam.”

Kara’s friend wrote a letter to the court, saying, “…when I asked [S.W.] what was wrong, she stared at me, said grampa hit her bathing suit zone, completely spaced out for a solid 2 minutes, then for no reason I could find, she randomly would just yell ‘Smile’ and force a smile. She also told me that Daddy and Grampa have been hitting her and James in the face and in the bathing suit zone. I’ve seen bruises on her that match her story, but hardly ever see any marks on James.

“I genuinely am concerned that [S.W.] is being abused in both a physical and sexual way and that Jerry Biel is largely the man who is abusing [S.W.] in such manors [sic] based off of the way that [S.W.] acts and the count of times she has flat out told me about these incidents.”

James Ryker Biel
Baby James.
(Provided)

On April 24, Kara’s attorney filed an emergency motion to protect S.W. from her grandfather. At the hearing the following day, Judge Dalton ordered that S.W. should not be around Jerry Biel. Thomas’s attorney spoke up, arguing that Thomas was living with his father, and the judge changed his mind, saying that S.W. could be in the same home, but Jerry would have to go into another room “or something.”

I’m sorry… huh?!

Also on April 25, Palatine Police closed the investigation into Jerry Biel stemming from Kara’s reports in March and April. In an email to Kara, Detective Robert Bice said, “Both incidents have been investigated and will be classified as unfounded. There will be no criminal charges stemming from either incident due to a lack of evidence and no corroboration of the allegations.”

In Kara’s response on May 14, she wrote, “If anything happens to my daughter, I will hold you and your department responsible.”

DCFS closed the case as unfounded on their end, as well.

An evidentiary hearing was scheduled for May 2, during which Kara was not allowed to speak, no evidence was allowed to be presented, and Thomas’s parenting time was not restricted, despite the emergency order Judge Dalton approved on April 25. After this hearing, Kara’s attorney, Melissa Kuffel, expressed how disheartened she was by the judge’s handling of the case and asked Kara in front of several witnesses to fire her, which Kara refused to do.

Courthouse in Kane County, Illinois
Kane County courthouse.
(MySuburbanLife.com)

Another court hearing was scheduled for May 15, but Kara was told repeatedly she did not have to attend, as her attorney would attend in her place. At 3:00 PM on May 15, Kara’s roommates called her, telling her that three police officers were at the home, demanding to take her children, because at that day’s hearing, Judge Dalton had approved an emergency order granting full custody, including medical and educational decision-making rights, to Thomas Biel on the grounds that Kara’s PTSD made her an unfit parent, an allegation for which he had exactly zero evidence. 

Also at the hearing, Kara was granted supervised visitation with her children from Monday through Wednesday from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Of course, she was not consulted about this schedule, which directly conflicted with her regular work schedule as a certified nursing assistant. Kara’s close friend Heather was ordered to be the court-appointed supervisor (CAS) for these visits, although she was not at the hearing, was not consulted on the matter, and had a job that would also conflict with this schedule.

James Biel and older sister
James and his big sister.
(Facebook)

Kara contacted Melissa Kuffel, who had withdrawn from her case, and asked her how this could have happened and why she did not receive notice of the emergency petition filed by Thomas. Melissa sent her an email stating that she had objected to this matter being discussed at a hearing without Kara present, but Judge Dalton had ignored her objection.

After this catastrophic turn of events, Kara wrote, “Multiple times Heather (CAS) and I picked up my kids and they had bruises. 

“My son had a bruise on his forehead, my daughter had a busted lip, partial black eye and bruising on her lower back, arms, sides and buttox [sic]. My son also had a chipped tooth. 

“[S.W.] continued to tell me, my roommates, my Mother and Heather that Grandpa was hitting her and touching her bathing suit zone.

“All photos of bruising were sent to the GAL and DCFS worker Sofia Salas.

“Sofia Salas as well as the Elgin Police Department were also provided with the video where Lawrence Thomas Riordan [S.W.’s godfather] admitted to seeing photos of my daughter naked and viewing, specifically, her ‘groin.’

“Despite overwhelming evidence she closed her investigation at 2 weeks.”

Likewise, the court case for Thomas’s emergency motion had resulted in Thomas being granted temporary custody, but the court case online was listed by this time as “closed,” even though permanent custody had supposedly not been determined.

Are you guys seeing red yet?

Illinois Attorney Scott Sheen
Attorney Scott Sheen.
(Sheen Law)

During a hearing on June 12, Thomas’s attorney, Scott Sheen, told Judge Dalton that the child pornography investigation into Thomas was closed. Kara later obtained a copy of the report, which indicated, Kara said, that Thomas’s hard drive contained:

“44,000 images in total relating to sex and children.

“A [majority] of these images were cartoons and were graphic sex acts between animated children and adults.

“722 of the images were apparent REAL prepubescent children, 3 of which were nude images, the rest had on only underwear.

“Over 500 of these children were identified and recognized by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”

Below are screenshots of the report so you can see for yourself.

  • Kara Witkowski documentation
  • Kara Witkowski documentation

Guys. The investigation was closed. WHAT?!

Lawrence Thomas Riordan
Lawrence Thomas Riordan.
(Provided)

Also in June, the aforementioned Lawrence Thomas Riordan, a good friend of Thomas Biel whose father owns a lucrative local business, left several voicemails for Kara, threatening consequences if she did not stop posting case material and allegations on Facebook. Too many of the threats he made in these voicemails turned out to be true for any of this to be a coincidence. For example, he threatened Kara with jail time; in court, Kara was later threatened with jail time several times by Judge Dalton. Lawrence told Kara in one message that she was not legally a mother; a month later, visitation with her children was stripped from her. Worst of all, multiple times, he asks in the messages, “What if something happens to James?” (Not S.W., mind you; he only mentions something happening to James.) Less than a month later, James was hospitalized, and a few months after that, James was dead. 

You can hear the messages below:

On August 4, 2019, Kara was at work when she received a message from Thomas saying that James was being treated at Alexian Brothers Hospital in Hoffman Estates, Illinois for a prolapsed rectum, which he explained was due to constipation that had been ongoing for months. 

St Alexius Medical Center
St. Alexius Medical Center.
(AMITA Health)

Kara, who, again, is a certified nursing assistant (CNA), had never once seen her son suffer from constipation; in fact, she said he had regular bowel movements during her visitation with the children.

According to the Boston Children’s Hospital, “Rectal prolapse occurs when the muscles and ligaments that support the rectum become weakened. Certain factors can make your child more likely to experience rectal prolapse, including:

  • straining while going to the bathroom
  • chronic constipation
  • acute or chronic diarrhea
  • malnutrition
  • cystic fibrosis
  • neurological conditions such as tethered cord or spinal cord injury
  • Hirschsprung’s disease and other colorectal and pelvic malformations
  • anal penetrations, such as from sexual abuse”

Thomas told her he and his family had noticed James’s prolapsed rectum at around 10:00 AM and took him to the pediatrician at 3:00 PM. He had no explanation for the five-hour delay. The pediatrician told him to take the baby to the hospital.

James Ryker Biel
James.
(Facebook)

Kara called the hospital and spoke with a nurse, who told her James had undergone surgery after their attempts to reinsert his rectum manually had failed. His sphincter, the nurse told Kara, was extremely weak, and even after surgery, his rectum had “popped out” twice already. Kara asked the nurse how severe her son’s constipation would have to have been to cause such a condition, and the nurse said it would have had to be ongoing for several months. Again, Kara, a CNA, had never seen any signs of constipation in her son.

Thomas himself had told hospital staff that his son had no history of constipation. 

Kara was allowed to visit James in the hospital for thirty minutes under the supervision of a pediatric floor manager. James was crying and upset when Kara arrived, as he had just been given an enema, but as soon as he saw his mommy, his eyes lit up, and he sat up with excitement. After giving James “the biggest hug,” playing with him, holding him close, and singing with him, Kara asked a nurse about his condition, and the nurse said he would be staying overnight, because his rectum had prolapsed five more times. That poor baby!

Kara was able to speak briefly with the hospital social worker, who informed her they had not contacted DCFS and saw no reason to. Kara told her that even if James’s injury was caused by constipation, the fact that it had to have been happening for months would at least construe neglect. The social worker grew defensive and told Kara not to tell her how to do her job, after which Kara had to walk away. 

After Kara and her boss left the hospital, her boss called DCFS and let them know what was going on with James, as well as mentioning the child porn investigation, Kara’s sexual assault by Thomas, and the investigation into the molestation of S.W. by Jerry Biel. DCFS said they would take emergency action.

James Ryker Biel
James.
(Patch)

Not even two hours later, Kara received a message from Thomas saying that James had been discharged from the hospital. His condition had not been corrected, his rectum was still prolapsing, and Kara had been told that he would be spending the night, but instead, the nurse simply taught Thomas how to push James’s rectum back in manually.

I can’t fathom how any of this was allowed to go on, let alone how it was enabled by a family court judge, a guardian ad litem, DCFS, and two police departments.

The next day, Kara was scheduled for visitation with her children. When she changed James’s diaper, she said, his bottom was “literally pulsating.” During the visit, S.W. asked her mother to accompany her to the bathroom, which meant the CAS also had to come along. While all three of them were in the bathroom, S.W. said, “Someone hurt James.” Kara asked her what she meant, and S.W. told the stunned women that Grandpa Jerry had “put a toothbrush in James’s butt” and made S.W. pull it out.

Kara asked her daughter to repeat what she said, and S.W. elaborated, saying James was crying and screaming during this process, so she tried to carry him away, but Grandpa pushed her down on the bed. The most shocking part was that S.W. acted nonchalant about the events she recounted, as if this horrific sexual assault was just… normal.

Thomas Biel with daughter and son James Ryker Biel
Thomas and the kids.
(Facebook)

The CAS, Heather, contacted the GAL, Julie Pirtle, to inform her of what S.W. had said. Meanwhile, Kara sent Thomas a message letting him know, to which he replied that he thought it was funny he had told Julie Pirtle a month ago that the same thing had happened to Kara when she was a child, specifically with a toothbrush. Kara argued that point, saying nothing like that had ever happened to her and pointing out how odd it was that he would say something like that to the GAL just weeks before their son was diagnosed with a prolapsed rectum, which would likely be a permanent medical condition. 

On August 6, 2019, Thomas sent Kara a message saying that a DCFS investigation had been launched and a safety plan implemented, meaning she would not be allowed to see her children for at least two weeks. Despite the investigations into Thomas and his father, Thomas was allowed to find placement for the children and to know where they were, while Kara was not. 

Kara contacted DCFS to find out if she was being investigated or if there was an open case against her. She was informed there was not. On August 13, after a week of hearing nothing about her children, Kara went to the Palatine Police Department to file a missing persons case. The officer she spoke with, Officer Leyden, Kara said, “was smug and smiled telling me I wasnt the first to come in trying to find out the location of my kids and I wouldnt be the last.”

The officer’s supervisor, Sergeant Morris, also refused to locate any paperwork from DCFS proving her children were in DCFS custody, telling her he personally knew where her kids were. Kara left the police department with no paperwork and no idea where her kids were.

Thomas Biel with daughter and son James Ryker Biel
James.
(Facebook)

During this time, Kara would later find out that James was admitted to three different hospitals nine times in regard to the rectal prolapse issue. The first hospitalization was from August 2 through 5; he was subsequently admitted on August 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13. During each hospitalization, Thomas continued to tell medical staff that James had no history of constipation. What, then, did he expect them to believe was the cause? As a result of the multiple hospital admissions, eight separate mandated reporters contacted DCFS. Thomas was told by two of the hospitals to follow up with an expert gastroenterologist regarding James’s continued issues. He never did.

Meanwhile, GAL Julie Pirtle, who, remember, was tasked with acting in the best interests of the children, tried to get the Domestic Violence Expert at the Elgin Police Department, who also happened to be Kara’s therapist, to agree with her that Kara was the type of mother who may murder her children. According to Kara, “Miss Pirtle admits that this is not due to facts or evidence but simply based on stories she has heard. This is the same woman who ignored admissions of rape and child pornography [by Thomas Biel] and still recommended that my children be in the custody of Thomas.”

This telephone conversation was documented by the therapist.

The next day brought another court hearing, where the court itself refused to provide Kara with documentation of a safety plan. At the hearing, Julie Pirtle stated that James’s prolapse had gotten worse and that she was going to block Kara’s number to prevent Kara from calling her office to ask about her children’s safety. (What?!) She then presented a report to the court slandering Kara.

Julie Pirtle.
(Facebook)

“One of the lines most [notable],” Kara wrote, “was that I was planning on escaping with my kids, not because I was raped, but to join a swingers community.

“Another was that due to my sexual interests it didn’t matter that I was raped.” 

Judge Dalton entered the GAL’s report into the case file. 

Despite the many well-documented issues with Thomas Biel and his family, Julie Pirtle nonetheless recommended to the judge that full custody of both children be given to Thomas with Kara receiving only supervised visits at her own expense, because she evidently required government supervision. Below is a partial transcript from that custody hearing in August of 2019, and you will not believe the supreme level of fuckery clearly going on in that courtroom based on this document alone:

  • Kara Witkowski documentation
  • Kara Witkowski documentation
  • Kara Witkowski documentation

In August, Kara was a guest on a streaming radio show called Northwest Liberty News, where she told her story in great detail. Her interview begins at about 57:19:

In September, Julie Pirtle wrote in a report, “I believe neither [Kara’s friend] nor Kara can see the harm that continual, repeated, false reports cause the children. Kara and her camp seem so singularly focused on destroying Thomas that they can’t see how their harmful actions have long term impacts on the children.”

On October 9, 2019, Judge Dalton recused himself from the Biel v. Witkowski case, saying, “I’ve given this case a lot of thought, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I can no longer be fair to Ms. Witkowski.”

Excuse me?!

On October 16, Kara exposed a massive conflict of interest when she posted the following on Facebook (note: Joe McMahon is the Kane County State’s Attorney):

“Scott Sheen is my exes Lawyer.

The only person with the Authority to charge Thomas Jerry Biel is Joe McMahon.

The hard drive containing child pornography is still under review with Joe McMahon.

Is this not a conflict of interest?…”

Kara Witkowski documentation
(Provided)

On October 18, Julie Pirtle withdrew as the court-appointed guardian ad litem.

On October 29, Kara did an update  interview with Northwest Liberty News:

Two days later, while in his father’s custody, James died, and within 24 hours, the Palatine Police Department released a statement saying they did not suspect foul play. Unbelievable. 

Dr. John Walsh.
(LinkedIn)

An autopsy was performed by a forensic pathology fellow (a doctor in training for a specialty) named John Walsh at the Cook County medical examiner’s office. John Walsh was certified in anatomical pathology but not in forensic pathology, which is a requirement in the state of Illinois. He was still, for some reason, permitted to perform James’s autopsy without supervision. 

Dr. Walsh left James’s cause and manner of death undetermined pending further investigation. However, since the police, including Palatine Police Chief Dave Daigle, Commander Steve Bratcher, and Detective Mike Tulley, had already made up their minds that no one was to blame that there was no foul play, there would be no further investigation.

Ultimately, the original autopsy ruled James’s manner of death “Natural” and the cause “Unknown Natural Causes.”

A death that occurs in an otherwise healthy child is categorized as Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC). It is estimated that one in 100,000 child deaths falls under this category.

Kara was so certain that her son’s death was anything but natural that she raised the money to pay for a second autopsy to be conducted about a month after James’s death by a trained, licensed, properly certified independent forensic pathologist. The preliminary autopsy results showed discoloration on James’s face, around his nose and upper lip, suggesting possible suffocation; also revealed was deep muscle bruising on the baby’s lower back. None of these injuries were noted in the original autopsy. 

The forensic pathologist was unable to finalize the autopsy at that time because, unbeknownst to Kara, James’s brain, heart, and neck organs were removed and retained by Dr. Walsh at the Medical Examiner’s Office. Upon hearing this, Kara called Dr. Walsh to discuss the matter. Dr. Walsh told Kara James’s organs were returned with his body, which she told him was untrue. He then backtracked, saying he had kept James’s neck organs to test for upper respiratory infection, which another expert in the field has told Kara is absolutely not a common practice.

You can hear Kara’s phone call with Dr. Walsh here

Cook County Medical Examiner's Office
Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
(Chicago Tonight)

With the help of a civil attorney, Dr. Youmans was finally permitted to examine James’s organs at the Office of the Cook County Medical Examiner in July of 2020, at which time she determined the cause of death was “attributed to complications from a cervical spinal cord injury.” She also found that he had suffered swelling in his brain and a superficial bruise on his head. 

Very interesting that the very parts of James to which his death could be attributed were withheld by the medical examiner’s office where an uncertified fellow performed the initial autopsy, which conveniently could not determine a cause of death.

Equally interesting: Dr. John Walsh is reportedly no longer employed by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

James Ryker Biel
James.
(Patch)

The type of spinal cord injury James suffered can be caused in a few ways: a fall, a vehicle accident, a sports injury, or child abuse. Clearly, James was too young for a sports injury to apply. The police report from the evening of James’s death made no mention of a fall or a vehicle accident at any point prior to the baby being found unresponsive. That leaves one option. 

You do the math.

As for manner of death, Dr. Youmans’ final report stated that James’s death “may be accidental, homicidal, or natural.” She ultimately ruled it as accidental, but, due to swelling in parts of the cervical spinal cord, she noted that “trauma is more likely.” 

This injury would have caused James to have difficulty breathing, which would lead to hypoxia, brain swelling, and death caused by hypoxic ischemic injury, which is the brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation.

According to Dr. Youmans’ report, further investigation must be pursued to determine if neglect or abuse caused the baby’s injury. Kara wrote on Facebook, “It is imperative for the safety of my living daughter that we know what caused the trauma to James.”

According to Patch, both the Palatine Police Department and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services have been informed of the results of the second autopsy. So far, they have continued to refuse to reopen the investigation into James’s death. 

Why? What is being hidden? Who is being protected?

James Ryker Biel grave
James’s final resting place.
(Facebook)

Just one more indignity in this seemingly endless parade of them is the fact that James was buried without Kara’s knowledge — and without his brain, heart, and neck organs — in a plot owned by his father in All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois. There is no headstone or marker to indicate where this beloved baby was laid to rest. Kara is not allowed to purchase a headstone for her son, because Thomas owns the plot. 

It is painfully obvious that James’s death must be further investigated, yet the Palatine Police Department staunchly refuses to reopen the investigation. Kara has created a petition to try to have the investigation into James’s death reopened. Please sign and share the petition here

Under the Justice for James mantle, Kara organized a peaceful protest that took place on August 6 in front of the Palatine Police Department. Kara and about 30 supporters marched in front of police headquarters, holding signs and chanting: “1, 2, 3, 4 – James deserved so much more… 5, 6, 7, 8 – it’s time that you investigate!” 

Justice for James Biel protest outside Palatine Police Headquarters
(Justice for James Facebook page)

People traveled from as far away as Michigan to support Kara in her mission to obtain justice for her son. She told Patch, “I was just so happy and so grateful to see people come together and love one another and care for one another and get together for a cause for my son and show their support.”

A second peaceful protest is scheduled for August 21, 2020 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM outside the Palatine Police Department, where Kara and the supporters of the Justice for James movement will continue to demand an investigation into James’s death. For anyone willing to take part, the police department is located at North Hicks Place, 595 North Hicks Road, in Palatine, Illinois. 

The Palatine Police Department, including Chief Dave Daigle, Commander Steve Bratcher, and Detective Mike Tulley, can be reached at (847) 359-9000. 

Please like and share the Justice for James page on Facebook for updates and so, so much more detail and documentation about the case. 

Justice for James Ryker Biel
(Justice for James Facebook page)

I deeply admire Kara’s perseverance in not allowing the abuse of her children and the death of her son to be swept under the rug. Even at the age of just 24, her strength and her ability to stand tall and fight for her kids — and now for justice — is beyond inspiring. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I’ve spent days up to my eyeballs in the myriad evidence Kara has amassed, and this reeks of a cover-up. All signs point to corruption in the Kane County, Illinois family court system — Judge John G. Dalton and GAL Julie Pirtle in particular — and the utter ineptitude of DCFS, as we’ve unfortunately seen in too many cases. 

Before I end this post, I want to take a moment to remember James as the adorable, playful little guy he was.

Kara said that James, who could “make anyone smile,” was “the sweetest little boy with an incredible personality.”

James Ryker Biel
James.
(Provided)

She said, “He really enjoyed playing with his sister, dancing, and singing.” He loved the song “Baby Shark,” and he was “highly adventurous and increasingly curious.” 

Speaking with CBS2 Investigator Megan Hickey, Kara said, “He absolutely loved monsters. I just miss that so much. I miss being able to hold him.”

Kara has also said about James, “You were a gift to this world. Your intelligence and kindness was beyond your years. You were so very loved by everyone. The moments I had with you I will cherish forever. I will always love you. Every day, every hour, every minute I will think of you.

“Your hand was still warm when I held you. I’m sorry I was not there for your final breaths. You are my heart my angel…”

Kara Witkowski is my guest on this week’s episode of Suffer the Little Children Podcast! Hearing her tell her story is compelling, and I urge you not to miss it. Episode 26: James Biel will be available at 5:00 AM on Tuesday, July 18, 2020 on your favorite podcast listening platform.

James deserves justice. We cannot rest until his death is investigated. Please share the petition, the link to the Justice for James page, and this story as far and wide as you can.

Click here for my ongoing coverage of James’s case.

  • James Ryker Biel
  • James Ryker Biel
  • James Ryker Biel and Kara Witkowski
  • James Ryker Biel
  • James Ryker Biel
  • James Ryker Biel
  • James Ryker Biel
  • Justice for James Ryker Biel
  • James Ryker Biel collage
  • James Ryker Biel collage

Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, Facebook, Justice for James Facebook page, Journal & Topics, Daily Caller, Northwest Liberty News, CBS2 Chicago, Patch, Kara Witkowski

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