Christopher Bowen’s mom said her son was sick. Really sick.

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For eight years, Kaylene Bowen-Wright sought treatment for her son’s cancer which allegedly had been preceded by a rare degenerative neurological disorder.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a petition to Child Protective Services claimed between 2009 and 2016, Christopher underwent 13 major operations and visited Dallas- and Houston-area hospitals and pediatric centers 323 times because of his reported illnesses.

Sometimes Christopher was really sick, such as three life-threatening blood infections caused by the installation of a feeding tube in his lower intestine. Other times, doctors couldn’t find anything wrong the little boy.

Regardless, Christopher was put on oxygen, confined to a wheelchair, and at one point admitted to hospice care. Bowen-Wright even tried securing a place for her son on a lung transplant list.

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But Christopher’s father, Ryan Crawford, was never convinced his son was sick and spent years in court fighting for others to believe him. Finally, an investigation by CPS into Bowen-Wright’s claims revealed Crawford had been right all along.

As the Star-Telegram reports, ever since Bowen-Wright became pregnant with Crawford’s child unexpectedly in 2009, Crawford noticed the woman, whom he dated on and off, had bizarre medical issues. Crawford said the mother-to-be would call in the middle of the night from the hospital telling him different reasons why she had been admitted. Crawford remembered one instance in particular in which Bowen-Wright claimed she had a fever of 110 degrees for seven days straight.

At first, Crawford believed the mother of his child wanted attention. But shortly after the birth of their son at 33 weeks in 2009, the medical saga continued, only Christopher was now the one going to the hospital.

According to WFAA, Bowen-Wright began claiming Christopher was sick when he was just 11 days old. Allegedly, the baby had refused to drink his bottle and would throw up if he did. Court records later claimed Bowen-Wright told medical staff the baby did drink his bottle, though she was caught pouring it out and lying to medical staff when confronted.

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In 2015, in an affidavit provided to CPS, Dr. Suzanne Dakil would detail the various medical claims made by Bowen-Wright since her son’s birth. The medical director of children’s health at Children’s Medical Center Dallas stated at 2 months old, Christopher was diagnosed with severe reflux and failure to thrive. Doctors administered a feeding tube.

At 2 years old, Bowen-Wright claimed the toddler was weak and fatigued, though doctors could find no underlying issues. Though Christopher had been admitted to the intensive care unit three times with blood infections, they were the result of central lines placed in his heart, which medical experts eventually deemed had been unnecessary. At 5 years old, Bowen-Wright signed “Do Not Resuscitate” orders, reports WFAA.

Crawford said the more he questioned Bowen-Wright over her “outlandish” claims about Christopher’s health, the less she would grant him access to their son.

In an interview with the Star-Telegram, Crawford explained:

“She was always saying Christopher was sick. Every single week. Every single month. She would always say, ‘Something’s wrong. He has this. He has that.’”

Eventually, the parents found themselves in family court where Crawford was given court-ordered visits. Crawford claimed Bowen-Wright would often cancel his visitations claiming Christopher was sick and would employ delay tactics— such as telling the courts Crawford didn’t know how to care for their sick son and demand the father complete classes in CPR and G-tube care before being allowed to visit, reports the Star-Telegram.

Crawford’s last visit with his son was in 2012 when he took his grandmother to Bowen-Wright’s home to see Christopher. Two weeks later in court, Bowen-Wright claimed Christopher suffered a heart attack because of his father’s visit. Crawford was reportedly stripped of his visitation rights by the judge over his refusal to accept his son’s alleged illnesses.

Crawford told the Star-Telegram:

“[The judge] asked Kaylene, ‘Would you mind if his father sees him one more time before he passes away?’ but Kaylene said no.”

In 2014, Crawford filed for custody of Christopher. Crawford told the Star-Telegram although he had been paying $600 a month in child support, he had not fought to see Christopher since his visitation rights were removed because he was battling depression. In court again, the same judge as before presided over the case.

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According to Crawford, Bowen-Wright cried and told 255th District Family Court Judge Lori Hockett her son was in a coma. Hockett reportedly refused to admit new medical reports that showed Christopher was not ill.

Crawford said:

“Lori Hockett immediately stated she’d heard this case and she can’t believe we would drag Kaylene back to court when the child is dying.”

Crawford summarized his on-going court battles for visitation rights and ultimately custody of Christopher at the time:

“It was always the same story: Christopher is dying. The father doesn’t need to be around because he doesn’t know to take care of him. Every time I went to court, they made me feel like I was the worst human ever.”

As Bowen-Wright continued to maintain Christopher was sick, several fundraisers were established in his name. A YouCaring page raised a total of $8,191 for Christopher’s “Arteriovenous malformation,” while a separate GoFundMe page sought to raise more than $600 for one last trip to the beach, as Christopher had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and given six months to live, according to the Star-Telegram.

GoFundMe

Finally, in 2015, Crawford had enough of the allegations his son was sick. Crawford contacted a district attorney investigator who referred the father’s concerns to the Dallas County district attorney’s office child abuse division. A criminal investigation began in 2016 following reports filed by Christopher’s doctors to CPS, reports the Star-Telegram.

Dallas- and Houston-area doctors detailed a series of concerns over Bowen-Wright’s claims regarding Christopher’s health. In the affidavit to CPS, Dr. Suzanne Dakil expressed her consternation about Bowen-Wright’s medical claims:

I am very concerned that mother has moved from exaggerating symptoms to inducing symptoms. If mother has given Chris something to induce a seizure, this is potentially fatal. At this point, I am very concerned for his welfare.

According to WFAA, an investigator visited the home of Bowen-Wright where she denied the allegations made against her; the investigator also noted Christopher’s physical health. In an affidavit, the investigator wrote:

“Christopher’s history provided verbally by Ms. Kaylene Bowen paints a picture of a very sick child. The doctors do not find Christopher to be sick. Ms. Bowen has Christopher on oxygen, yet Christopher is fine without oxygen. Christopher is able to eat normally and does not need a feeding tube.”

Child Protective Services have since removed Christopher, his 6-year-old half-brother, and their 13-year-old half-sister, from Bowen-Wright’s care. The two half-brothers have been placed into foster care while the teen was placed with her biological father. Bowen-Wright was arrested on a warrant of injury to a child with serious bodily injury and is currently being held at the Dallas County Jail, reports the Star-Telegram.

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Medical experts believe the mother was suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, now referred to in diagnoses as “factitious disorder imposed on another,” a mental illness in which a person acts as though a person they are caring for is sick, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Crawford told WFAA that Bowen-Wright’s arrest was overdue; he is angry it took so long for investigators to believe what he always knew to be true:

“How do you do 13 surgeries? How do you do it? How do you do 13 surgeries and not question the fifth surgery? The sixth surgery?”

In an interview with WFAA, Dr. Marc Feldman, a nationally recognized expert on Munchausen syndrome by proxy, explained how caregivers get away with convincing others a person is sick:

“They doctor shop and hospital shop. They often frequent many emergency rooms over a wide geographic area. One doctor may never know that medical procedures or diagnostic tests have already been performed elsewhere, so it happens again and again and again. These mothers tend to be master deceivers and liars. They’re very skilled at what they do.”

Feldman added the mortality rate of children associated with Munchausen syndrome by proxy is 9 percent. As a result, it is “one of the most lethal forms of child abuse,” WFAA reports.

Though Bowen-Wright is in jail, Crawford must continue to fight for custody of Christopher —this time from foster care. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the father with legal fees.

According to the Star-Telegram, since Christopher’s removal from Bowen-Wright’s care, he no longer needs his feeding tube, oxygen, or an IV. Dallas Police Detective Kimberly Mayfield noted during a checkup at the hospital Christopher “was up and playing most of the time.”

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Crawford said his son has been taken off of all his medication with the exception of medicine used to treat his allergies. The father told WFAA he believes Bowen-Wright took advantage of their son for financial gain and deserves life behind bars.

He also wants to hold the system accountable for what his son was put through, as he told the Star-Telegram: “It’s horrible for my son, or any kid because obviously my son is not the only one that has had to go through this type of torture. The system has to be exposed — all the weaknesses that are in the system — because the kids don’t deserve that.”

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