Fort Worth

Mom’s boyfriend arrested in death of Fort Worth toddler

John Winkler and Laura Martinez tend to the gravesite of Adrian Langlais. Winkler and Martinez frequently cared for the child who died March 19 from injuries allegedly suffered at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend.
John Winkler and Laura Martinez tend to the gravesite of Adrian Langlais. Winkler and Martinez frequently cared for the child who died March 19 from injuries allegedly suffered at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend. Star-Telegram

They weren’t related to the boy, but John Winkler and Laura Martinez considered themselves adoptive grandparents to young Adrian Langlais.

When Martinez’s son began living with Jessica Langlais, then six months pregnant with Adrian by another man, Martinez and Winkler welcomed the expectant mother into their lives.

When Adrian was born on March 18, 2013, Martinez was among the first at the hospital to hold him.

Martinez and Winkler, her common-law husband, began baby-sitting Adrian when Langlais returned to work. It was a task that Winkler gladly continued even after the relationship between Langlais and Martinez’s son ended — and his own relationship with Martinez began to fall apart.

Last fall, not long after Langlais started dating Christian Tyrrell, Winkler said, he noticed bruises on Adrian, accompanied by what he called unusual behavior.

Winkler said he expressed concern to Langlais and to Adrian’s biological father and eventually to Child Protective Services, which investigated and closed its case in February, ruling out abuse or neglect by Adrian’s biological parents and Tyrrell.

“They left the child vulnerable,” Winkler said. “They made that decision and they made the wrong decision.”

On March 18 — Adrian’s second birthday — the toddler was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where an examination revealed severe head trauma, including multiple skull fractures and bleeding on the brain, as well as bruising and swelling around his eyes, neck and head. His body also had bite marks.

Adrian died the next day.

On Wednesday, Fort Worth police arrested Tyrrell on a capital murder warrant at his parents’ home, accusing the 22-year-old of inflicting the injuries that caused Adrian’s death. Bail was set at $1 million.

“No other charges in this case are anticipated at this time,” said Sgt. Jim Thomson, supervisor of the crimes against children unit.

Though grateful for the arrest, Winkler and Martinez say the child’s mother and CPS employees should also be held accountable for not protecting Adrian. Winkler has reached out to politicians and started a Facebook page aimed at telling Adrian’s story and pushing for justice.

Because the criminal case is still active, CPS officials said they have not been cleared to release information. Langlais did not return a phone message and a Facebook message seeking comment.

“To know he’s gone is breaking me,” Martinez said in a recent interview. “But on the other hand, I’m happy because he’s not here anymore. He didn’t deserve the life these people were giving to him. I’m glad he’s with God.

“I’m glad nobody is going to hurt him anymore.”

‘Mind your own business’

Winkler, a landlord who leased a home in the 1900 block of Cedar Tree Lane to Langlais, said he first questioned her about Adrian’s bruises in November.

He said Langlais told him they occurred as Adrian played and roughhoused with other children at the home of Tyrrell’s mother, who sometimes cared for the boy.

“In about November, I start noticing a change in Adrian’s behavior,” Winkler said. “He’s starting to hit me in the face. Sometimes when she brings him over, he’s like in shock. … He clings to me. I’m telling her, ‘I don’t know what the deal is but there’s something going on here.’”

“Her indifference about it was a concern.”

After consulting with Adrian’s father and others, including an attorney, Winkler reported the injuries to CPS on Dec. 23, knowing that if Langlais found out, she would likely cut off his access to Adrian.

But before Langlais learned of the CPS complaint, things boiled over on the night of Dec. 26 after Tyrrell came to pick Adrian up and Adrian appeared frightened, Winkler said.

“He immediately ran to me, grabbed me … and was holding on,” Winkler recalled. “He would look over and look away from him, and he started crying. He dug into my arm with his little fingernails so much it broke the skin.”

Winkler said he told Tyrrell that he’d drop off the boy when Langlais returned home from work.

“He got real upset and left. He immediately went up to Jessica’s work, and I started receiving texts from her,” Winkler said.

In the text message exchange, which Winkler shared with the Star-Telegram, he told Langlais that Adrian seemed afraid to go with Tyrrell. Langlais responded that the boy was just having a tantrum.

“John you can’t make decisions like that. I am his mother,” Langlais texted Winkler. “And if you keep this up I’m gonna have to make other arrangement for Adrian.”

Winkler texted back that he loved and cared about her and Adrian and had only her best interests in mind.

“John I don’t appreciate you insinuating that Christian is harmful to me and my child, Christian loves Adrian and is really good with him,” she responded.

“Adrian is frightened of him, that is a fact … I am concerned you do not realize it,” Winkler replied.

“That’s your opinion,” Langlais wrote. “Please mind your own business.”

It was the last night Winkler was allowed to watch Adrian.

Winkler’s criminal record

After Langlais learned of the CPS complaint, Winkler said she called him and told him that she had informed CPS of Winkler’s criminal record and that he was no longer allowed to see Adrian.

Winkler’s most recent legal problems were connected to the breakup of Langlais and Martinez’s son. After the breakup — and before she started dating Tyrrell — Langlais started seeing Adrian’s father, Ulises Hererra, again.

Winkler said Martinez’s son became angry with him after he helped Langlais move items out of the apartment that they had shared. Then Martinez grew upset with how Langlais had treated her son. Martinez wanted Winkler to cease contact with Langlais.

When he would not, the relationship between Winkler and Martinez deteriorated and they separated. The two, however, remained friends, with Martinez often visiting Winkler when he was caring for Adrian so she could see the boy.

In May 2014, Winkler said, he went to the Grapevine restaurant where Martinez’s son worked to try to smooth things over with him. Instead, he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and aggravated assault after he accelerated his vehicle toward the restaurant’s general manager, who had asked him to leave.

Though Langlais was aware of his legal problems, Winkler said, she had no reservations with him continuing to care for Adrian. Only after he made the CPS report did Langlais use his arrest against him, he said.

The aggravated-assault case was dismissed last month after Winkler pleaded guilty to DWI — his third such conviction — in exchange for five years’ probation.

Last glimpse of Adrian

Martinez, who said she also made a CPS complaint, was prevented from seeing the boy as well.

“Do you know how many times I went to bed thinking, ‘How can I kidnap Adrian and get away with it?’” Martinez said. “I knew I couldn’t.”

The two last saw Adrian on Feb. 21 when Winkler went by Langlais’ rental home to mow the lawn. Adrian, who was being baby-sat by Tyrrell’s sister, excitedly peered out at him through the living room window. Martinez soon joined Winkler at the window, both waving and talking to the boy through the glass.

“I’m going, ‘Hey, what are you doing? What are doing, Boo-boo?’” Winkler recalled. “He’s just full of life — happy.”

Both Winkler and Martinez say they’re upset with CPS’ handling of the case.

Winkler said a CPS investigator never asked to interview him after he filed his complaint and only reluctantly met with him in person Feb. 9.

During the meeting, Winkler said, he expressed his concerns that Tyrrell had violent tendencies and posed a danger to Adrian. He said the investigator assured him that the case was under investigation and that CPS would be in contact with the family.

But two days later, the investigator closed the case, according to a letter that Winkler received from the agency in March.

Mother’s account

Langlais and her boyfriend indicated to police that Adrian’s injuries occurred on March 17, the day before the boy was hospitalized, while both adults were at home.

Langlais told investigators that Tyrrell put Adrian in a “timeout” in his playpen that day after Adrian refused to eat his lunch. She said she heard Tyrrell yell at Adrian, followed by silence.

“Adrian was no longer crying or making noise,” Detective A. Heise, with the crimes against children unit, wrote in the arrest warrant affidavit for Tyrrell.

Langlais said that when Tyrrell brought Adrian out from the room about 10 or 20 minutes later, he had facial bruising and his eyes kept rolling back.

“Christian told Jessica that when he entered the spare bedroom to retrieve Adrian from timeout, Christian discovered Adrian outside of the playpen, lying on his back with his feet against the wall of the playpen,” the affidavit says.

Adrian vomited that night and could not stand on his own, Langlais told the detective.

She said she fed him a slice of banana the next morning, which he quickly regurgitated. Later, when Tyrrell dropped her off at work, Adrian’s head was lying against the side of his car seat “like he couldn’t move it.” He opened his eyes only when she kissed him goodbye.

At 1 p.m., Tyrrell called her at work to say that Adrian had had a seizure and stopped breathing and that he was about to be taken by ambulance to the hospital, she told police.

Boyfriend’s account

Tyrrell told investigators that he spanked Adrian and put him in timeout after he refused to eat his lunch.

He said he retrieved the boy about five minutes later and tried to feed him again, but Adrian still refused and was put back in the playpen.

“You need to start acting better. You know you need to eat,” Tyrrell said he told the boy, according to the affidavit. He said Adrian acted “pretty pissed” in return.

Tyrrell said Adrian fell asleep. He said he went to check on the boy between 6 and 6:30 p.m. and found him lying on the floor “like he fell backwards” out of the playpen.

He told the detective that he asked Adrian whether he was OK and that the boy stood up and acted normally.

Tyrrell said Adrian later vomited and appeared “sleepy” but seemed fine the next morning — alert, talking and “having fun,” the affidavit states.

Tyrrell said that after dropping off Langlais at work around 10:30 a.m., he and the boy played together. He said he called 911 about 1:30 p.m. after seeing Adrian “stagger” and fall, gasping for air with his eyes rolled back in his head.

An analysis of Tyrrell’s cellphone, which had been seized by police, shows an Internet search at 11:01 p.m. March 17 — more than 14 hours before he would call 911 — for “how to tell if someone has went braindead.”

Additional online searches that night and the next morning pertained to head injuries, concussions and “toddler can’t walk or use right side after hitting head,” the affidavit says.

He ‘was an exception’

In Winkler’s Fort Worth apartment, signs of Adrian are everywhere.

The boy’s clothes remain folded in drawers and hanging in the closet. His stuffed animals line the headboard. A T-ball set, still in the unopened box, leans against the bedroom wall — a gift for Adrian’s second birthday that he never got to see.

Winkler had taken Adrian to baseball games, as well as the park and the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.

“I’ve got grandkids and I’m partial to them, but this little child was an exception. He was an exceptional young life, full of love,” Winkler said.

In the now-empty rental house — Winkler evicted Langlais after Adrian’s death — police have removed a square section of Adrian’s bedroom wall as part of their investigation, as well as a small section of carpet from a different bedroom that had contained the playpen.

“His bed was right here,” he cried, pointing to a corner of Adrian’s bedroom, which Langlais had painted a bright green. “Whenever they were both working and he wouldn’t go to sleep, I’d lay right down here on the floor and have my hand in the crib and he’d go to sleep.

“I brought him over here and I thought everything was going to be good, and he ended up getting hurt in this house.”

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655

Twitter: @deannaboyd