A mother now faces multiple charges after police, following a welfare tip, found her oldest daughter severely malnourished and locked in a urine-soaked closet.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker stood in front of The Children's Place, a group who focuses on nurturing and caring for young victims of abuse, late Saturday afternoon as she announced 29-year-old Jacole N. Prince would be charged with first-degree assault, abuse of child and first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
"Some of us may view Friday - the day a little girl is found trapped in a closet – as a terrible day, but it was a great day for this young girl, this 10-year-old child who is just about to celebrate her 11th birthday," Baker said explaining that Friday was the day the girl was rescued from an atrocious situation.
Court documents detail how the girl - identified only as "LP" - was not allowed to eat with the rest of her family and officers said the stench of urine coming from her closet was hard to bear. Baker said it's believed the girl was confined off-and-on in the small space for a prolonged period of time, but wouldn't go into more specific details.
"She obviously had defecated multiple times in that room, the stench of urine was, I'm told, hard to bear," Baker said.
Officers found that a portable crib was pushed against the closet door and a small rope and wide shoelaces were tied around the handles to keep the girl locked inside while everybody was gone.
And she was clearly rarely fed. She weighs just 32 pounds, less than half what she should for her age.
The prosecutor said it's unknown why this girl was singled out from the rest. She added that the girl's younger sisters were well cared for and neighbors reported seeing the mother playing outside with the two younger children on many occasions.
The little girl told authorities that she gets in trouble for peeing on herself and Prince will sometimes punch her on the back "real hard."
When police questioned Prince, she admitted to not letting her oldest daughter leave the house because she was embarrassed of the way the way the girl looked. She said she knew her daughter was malnourished and she was worried she would get in trouble if someone saw her.
Neighbors said they lived next door for years and never knew the little girl existed.
"We didn't know she had a third child. She always said she had two. And here comes the surprise this morning - there's a 10-year-old in the closet," Kimberly Kelley said. "How can you actually go on for three or four years pretending like you only had two children?"
The little girl, who is about to turn 11, is being treated at Children's Mercy Hospital. Despite all she has endured, Baker said the girl is in a good state of mind.
"While she is expected to thrive again, she's in a very bad situation, a very serious situation. Being 32 pounds, she was very dirty and unkept. But, amazingly, as children tend to surprise all of us, she had very good spirits," Baker said.
The father of the other two kids was often at the apartment. Police have questioned him, but he is not in custody. His sister said he had broken up with the kids' mom, and that her family did know about the 10-year-old girl, but they were told she stayed with an aunt.
"There are two other children in this case, those children were well-cared for, fed, maintained. For some reason this little girl was singled out and treated quite differently," Baker said.
It is unknown how many months or years the girl lived that way, or why.
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