KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said Wednesday that he thinks a crime was committed against the 3-year-old son of Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, but he can't prove who did it.
So, Howe said, Hill won't face charges. Neither will Crystal Espinal, the boy's mother.
In a news conference he called at the Johnson County courthouse in Olathe, Howe admitted he was frustrated.
"A child has been hurt," Howe said. "So, yes, as a prosecutor and a father of four kids, it's frustrating you can't do anything about it."
Investigators could not determine who committed the crime, Howe said. He declined to comment further and would not say what crime his office thought occurred.
The prosecutor said he would rather let a guilty person go free than prosecute an innocent person.
The criminal investigation is over, but there's an ongoing child protection case involving the Kansas Department for Children and Families. The case centers around the safety of the little boy.
"I know DCF is involved in this and I'm going to let DCF handle this the way they do, which isn't in the public," Howe said. "What I can assure the public is, he's safe."
News had surfaced in mid-March that Overland Park police took two reports at Hill's Johnson County home, one for battery and the other for child abuse and neglect. The police reports, dated March 5 and March 14, both involved a juvenile.
At some point, a report also was made to the Kansas Department for Children and Families.
The Star reported last Thursday that Hill's 3-year-old son recently was removed from the custody of Hill and his fiancee, Crystal Espinal. It isn't clear when the boy was removed, or who he is staying with now.
Sources have told The Star in recent weeks that Hill and Espinal have been working through a family court process called a "child in need of care" case. The couple was at the Johnson County courthouse Wednesday.
Generally, cases like this involve the Department for Children and Families and the county court. A judge and lawyers representing the parents and the child generally discuss and make decisions about the child's safety and care.
These cases can also result in a child being removed from a home.
Records obtained earlier this week show that the NFL requested documents from Overland Park Police on March 12 asking for any relevant information, including photos and 911 calls, regarding Hill, his fiancee and their young son as "it relates to alleged injuries sustained by the couple's minor child." The Star first reported the child abuse investigation into Hill on March 15.
Kansas' child welfare agency said last month that the agency had received a report and was investigating. Contacted earlier this week and asked whether the agency had completed its investigation, a spokesman said he could not comment on the status of a child welfare case.
The Chiefs had said little about Hill and the ongoing investigation. General manager Brett Veach would only say last week that, "I think it's going to work itself out here, and we'll deal with the information as it comes."
The investigations involving Hill have raised questions about the wide receiver's future after the Kansas City Chiefs confirmed last month that they were aware of the law enforcement probe. Since he was taken by the team in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft, Hill has become one of the Chiefs' _ and the NFL's _ most high-profile players while seeming to put his domestic violence history behind him.
In December 2014, while a student and football standout at Oklahoma State University, Hill assaulted his then-girlfriend Espinal. She was eight weeks pregnant with their son at the time. Espinal, who started dating Hill in June of that year, told Stillwater police that Hill punched her in the face, put her in a headlock, choked her and struck her in the stomach several times.
Hill was arrested and dismissed from the Oklahoma State football team. He pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation in August 2015 and received three years probation.
As part of the plea agreement, Hill was ordered to complete 52 weeks of domestic violence prevention classes. He also was fined $500 and ordered to pay restitution and court costs.
The conviction was dismissed in August 2018 and ordered to be expunged after he completed his probation requirements.
The investigations involving Hill came amid discussions of a record-breaking contract extension that has been expected to make him among the highest-paid wide receivers.
Because of the past domestic violence conviction, if Hill had been charged he could have been considered a repeat offender by the NFL. As a repeat offender, his punishment from the league could have been more significant than the baseline six-game suspension without pay handed down to a first-time offender.
"Repeat offenders will be subject to enhanced and/or expedited discipline, including banishment from the league with an opportunity to reapply," the policy reads. "In determining discipline, both aggravating and mitigating factors will be considered."