© 2023 WGLT
NPR from Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mother of missing Bloomington baby had history of DCFS involvement

Courts graphic
WGLT file photo
/

The state’s child welfare agency had three interactions with Kimberlee Burton before her infant died at home and was reported missing, according to records with the Department of Children and Family Services.

The final visit by state workers was in July, after Burton gave birth to Zaraz Walker, and hospital staff voiced concerns about the mother’s erratic behavior. The mother and baby returned to the home Burton shared with her two other children, ages 5 and 6. Burton came to the Bloomington DCFS office once after Zaraz’s birth and no issues were reported, according to DCFS records.

Two previous DCFS investigations were conducted into allegations of abandonment and abuse by Burton.

In September 2020, records show the state received a call that Burton had left the three children she had at the time with a family member. When DCFS checked, they found the mother and her children at home. The allegation was deemed unfounded.

In May 2021, Burton’s 10-year-old daughter reported that she had been injured by her mother. The child was removed from the home and sent to live with her father. The two younger children were left with Burton and the DCFS investigation remained open until February 2022 when the state issued an indicated finding, meaning credible evidence of abuse exists. That finding was issued after Zaraz went missing.

Investigations into child abuse allegations often take months to conclude, a DCFS spokesman said of the May 2021 complaint involving physical abuse of the 10-year-old by Burton.

Burton and her family came to the attention of authorities again in February after she was arrested for allegedly shoplifting at Walmart on Feb. 12. The child’s grandmother went to the family’s home in the 300 block of East Wood Street to pick up the children and noticed the baby was missing.

Burton was charged with child endangerment for leaving her two children at home, and DCFS issued an indicated finding based on the same allegation.

Neighbors told police they saw the mother carrying baby items to a dumpster about a week before she was arrested for shoplifting.

In jail calls with family members and interviews with police, Burton admitted the baby had died at home while sleeping with her, authorities said. The baby was left in a cemetery near Burton’s home, a prosecutor said in court, but no remains have been found.

Burton has been charged with concealment of a death, a felony. Her lawyer has asked that a mental fitness examination be conducted to determine her ability to stand trial.

In a recent court appearance conducted via Zoom while Burton was in jail, she became upset when a prosecutor read the details of the charges.

“She’s not living. Stop speaking on my child. She passed away. It was very clear to you that my baby passed away,” said Burton.

If deemed mentally unfit to stand trial, Burton would be sent to McFarland Mental Health Center for treatment. If she cannot be restored to fitness within a year, she could be found not guilty by reason of insanity and continue treatment. The charges could be dropped.

Burton remains in jail in lieu of posting $25,035 bond. She is due back in court March 18 for an arraignment.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with NPR donors across the country – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
Related Content