Ex-boyfriend charged with murder in Belleville toddler’s death

Kane Friess-Wylie died of a massive brain injury in April. He was 2 1/2 years old at the time.
Kane Friess-Wylie died of a massive brain injury in April. He was 2 1/2 years old at the time.

Eight months after a toddler died of a massive brain injury, his mother’s former boyfriend faces a murder charge.

But as of Saturday, the defendant, 24-year-old Gyasi Campbell, had not yet been taken into custody. Police were searching for him.

Kane Friess-Wylie was 2 1/2 years old when his mother and her then-boyfriend brought him to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville. From there he was flown to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police initially detained an unnamed “person of interest,” but that person was quickly released. Search warrants later showed that person to be the boyfriend, Campbell, now of Berkeley, Missouri.

Campbell was not Kane’s father but was living with his mother, Lindsey Friess, at the time of Kane’s death.

The search warrants stated that Friess came home April 13 to find Campbell holding Kane in a reclining chair. The toddler was conscious but obviously ill, vomiting right after she arrived.

Campbell put Kane’s head under a water faucet to revive him while Friess called 911, according to court documents.

Gyasi Campbell
Gyasi Campbell Provided

“I’ve never seen a child hurt like that before in my life,” she told the News-Democrat in September. “It was just too much for me, after I held Kane.”

Friess told police that she had been gone for three hours. Campbell told her the child had fallen, and she believed him at the time, but said Campbell’s story then changed several times. She came to believe that someone else had been in the house, she said.

“I feel like there are people that he knows and talks to that know what actually happened,” she said. “And I feel like they should tell me.”

A neighbor described what she thought was “hammering” coming from the family’s apartment that night, and the St. Louis medical examiner’s report eventually showed that Kane died of a head injury.

Now the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s office has charged Campbell with first-degree murder. . His bail was set at $1 million.

St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said he hoped the charges would help bring some peace to the family. “No child should ever be victimized by the people who are supposed to love and protect them,” he said. “These are always the hardest cases to work for everyone involved.”

Campbell has no felony record and only a minor drug possession charge and traffic tickets on his record, police said.

Friess has cooperated fully with the investigation and will not be charged, the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department said.

Friess told the News-Democrat in September that she felt like she would never know what happened, waiting months on the investigation. “Everything has been ripped away from me,” she said. “I’ve never really had much except for (Campbell) and my kids.”

Kane’s obituary stated that he was a fan of the shows “Peppa Pig” and “Curious George.” “Kane’s eyes and smile would light up the room wherever he would go,” the obituary read.

The Illinois Attorney General’s Child Death Task Force led the investigation, along with investigators from the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department and Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald