A Kansas City mother accused of locking her 10-year-old daughter in a closet made her first court appearance Monday.
Jacole N. Prince, 29, told the judge she couldn't afford an attorney to represent her so the judge said one would be appointed to her. A judge entered a not guilty plea for her.
She was charged with three felonies, including first-degree assault, abuse of a child and endangering the welfare of a child.
Prince is accused of keeping her 10-year-old daughter locked in a closet at their apartment at East 13th Street and Highland.
The girl, who is being treated at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, will turn 11 years old next month.
Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom for Monday's hearing.
Police got an anonymous call Friday to check on the child. They said the closet had a horrific smell because she was forced to relieve herself in the tiny space. A crib was used to block access to the door and strings were tied around the door knobs in a way to keep the girl known in court documents as "LP" locked in, police said.
Investigators say she was rarely fed and only weighed 32 pounds, less than half what she should for her age.
Prince told police she didn't let the girl leave the house because her daughter was malnourished and she would "get in trouble if someone saw her," according to a probable cause statement.
In the meantime, Prince's bond was set at $200,000 cash only and her next court date will be July 12.
Prince's other two children were reportedly in good condition. Media outlets reported that several years ago Prince entered one of the other children in a cute baby contest.
The 8-year-old and 2-year-old girls are now in state protective custody. Neighbors had no idea about the existence of the older girl.
Their mother was often seen outside with the two younger girls.
"Its sad. It's just real sad," said neighbor Dorothy Burell. "Jacole was a good person to my knowledge. She was quiet. She hung out. She played with kids. I never saw anything like this happen."
Burell and other neighbors are heartbroken about the situation and worried about LP's future.
"We are wanting to meet her one day to show her our support," she said. "I want to say I'm sorry that I didn't even know this was going on, up under my nose."
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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