Christopher Bowen is a healthy, athletic 10-year-old kid in Texas. That's quite a difference from the boy who racked up 13 major surgeries and more than 300 hospital and pediatric center visits by the age of 8, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. A remarkable recovery? Not quite. Authorities say he was never sick in the first place. His 35-year-old mother, Kaylene Bowen, has been charged with medical child abuse, or Munchausen syndrome by proxy. That is, prosecutors say she made up Bowen's various illnesses nearly from the day he was born. Details and coverage:
- Early start: Christopher's first hospital visit came at 11 days old, according to a longer, in-depth Star-Telegram story about the case. Over the years, his mother engineered invasive procedures and surgeries, even having him fitted with a feeding tube that connected to his small intestine and led to life-threatening infections, authorities say. He used a wheelchair at times, as well as oxygen masks, and Bowen claimed at various times that he had everything from rare genetic disorders to cancer to muscular dystrophy. She even allegedly placed him in hospice care.
- His father: While this was going on, Ryan Crawford, the boy's father, voiced suspicions to authorities and waged unsuccessful court fights to gain custody. He and Bowen never married or lived together; they had dated briefly before she became pregnant. He tells the Star-Telegram that even when pregnant, she would call to complain about all sorts of now suspicious-sounding problems with the pregnancy. It worsened after the boy's birth. "She was always saying Christopher was sick," he says. "Every single week. Every single month. She would always say, 'Something's wrong. He has this. He has that.'"
- Frustration: Crawford tells D Magazine the legal fight was hard to fathom. He was certain nothing was wrong with his son. "Every time we go to court, the question is when is he going to die?" Ryan says. "I'm in court with evidence from speaking with doctors. My son was just seen running and playing and riding his bike. Ask her what his favorite food is. His favorite food is hot wings. How is his favorite food hot wings if he has a feeding tube? I thought the evidence was right there."
- The name: It wasn't until 2015 when Crawford read about Munchausen syndrome by proxy in a Star-Telegram series that everything clicked for him. He reached out to an expert quoted in the series, and the case against Bowen proceeded from there.
- The big break: Staffers at a Dallas hospital voiced their own suspicions to Child Protective Services, and D Magazine has this nugget from a 2017 visit by a CPS investigator. As Bowen ticked off her son's ailments, "the investigator watched Christopher come down a flight of stairs, leap from the fourth step, and bound off to play." CPS soon removed him from her custody, and Crawford is now the boy's sole guardian.
- Guilty plea: Bowen has pleaded guilty to causing injury to her son and will be sentenced in October, reports the Dallas Morning News. She faces up to 20 years in prison, but the judge has wide discretion in the case and could give her probation instead.
(This mother allegedly lied about her daughter's health
over 10 years in several states.)