Kansas mother continues fight with county for son’s death records

Renee Boeppler continues to fight the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office for information about...
Renee Boeppler continues to fight the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office for information about her son Joshua's death.(Renee Boeppler)
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 6:54 AM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Renee Boeppler lost her only child in September of 2021. Joshua Boeppler was 26 years old. He was found dead in a Leavenworth County barn. Renee still has questions about the death, and is not satisfied with what investigators have told her.

“So, it’s hard enough to lose a child and you know, then not to know really what happened -- is really difficult,” said Boeppler.

The Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Department considers Joshua’s death a suicide. That’s what the autopsy concludes, too.

But Renee is not satisfied with those conclusions- and she questions if there was a rush to judgment. She’s asked the Sheriff’s Department to see the full report. It has refused, saying it’s part of a criminal investigation.

“No matter what, parents deserve records, don’t you think?” asked Boeppler. “I don’t feel like suicide is criminal, so how can you close the records?”

She’s been fighting in court for the complete records and even lodged a complaint with the Kansas Attorney General’s office.

Renee described her son as loving, fun, and hard-working. She has struggled to come to terms with the death.

“I have to know what happened and maybe I won’t ever know,” said Boeppler. She thinks getting the records might help give her closure.

“I respect law enforcement, but I feel it’s disrespectful if you’re just closing the records because either, one, you know something and you didn’t do your job. Or two, you just didn’t do your job.”

After Renee took her case to court, lawyers reached a compromise where an outside expert reviewed the records.

After the review, the autopsy was amended, and some details were changed. The first report has Josh laying on the ground. The amended report says has was slumped over a chair.

But the cause of death stayed the same—a gunshot wound to the head. The manner of death also stayed the same—suicide.

“I’ve had countless of family members of those who have died told me if they get the records that will be closure for them,” said Max Kautsch, Boeppler’s attorney. He points out that if Renee lived in Missouri, she’d have the records. And some Kansas counties will also release records.

“It’s just heartbreaking because you have a mother who is struggling to come to grips with the untimely death of her son,” said Kautsch. “And you have a law enforcement agency that has all the power in the world to help her and has chosen not to do so.”

It’s surprising, but under Kansas law, Renee does have the right to view the body camera footage from deputies at the scene. She has both the initial and the amended autopsies. She just can’t get the full, written report. The release of that is at the discretion of the county sheriff.

We contacted the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office to ask ‘why not?’

We received a limited response:

“Our hearts go out to the family and everyone touched by this incident. Our agency stands behind the findings of our investigative work in this case.”

The department spokesperson never directly answered why they won’t give all records to Renee.