Failure to protect

Mother’s boyfriend charged in case of girl found in closet

Updated: 2012-07-12T01:19:15Z

By CHRISTINE VENDEL And LAURA BAUER

The Kansas City Star

Jackson County prosecutors on Wednesday filed two charges of felony child endangerment against the boyfriend of a woman who allegedly barricaded her 10-year-old malnourished daughter in an apartment closet.

Marcus R. Benson, who regularly stayed with the girl’s mother, told Kansas City police he didn’t know that the girl had been forced to live in the dark, dingy closet without regular access to food, but the court filings suggest that prosecutors think otherwise.

Police found the girl, identified in court records as LP, on June 22 in the 1300 block of Highland Avenue after someone called the Missouri child abuse hotline and asked authorities to check on her.

The girl weighed just 32 pounds — less than half the average weight for her age. She was home alone. Her mother had taken her two younger sisters, ages 2 and 8, out to breakfast.

Officers later arrested the girls’ mother, Jacole Prince, 29, and took her other daughters into protective custody. The other girls were clean and well-fed, by all accounts. But LP wasn’t allowed regular meals or access to a restroom, according to court records. She had no toys, lived amid her own waste and hadn’t been to school since 2007.

Prince was charged with assault, child abuse and child endangerment. She remained in jail Wednesday.

Police also arrested Benson, the biological father of Prince’s other two daughters, but later released him after he denied knowing about the abuse. According to court records, he said he hadn’t seen the girl in about a year, thought she lived somewhere else and would have stopped the abuse had he known about it.

Benson was not in custody Wednesday. His arrest warrant carries a $100,000 bond.

Court records portray him as the kinder parental figure — sneaking LP a hamburger and fries and arguing with Prince about the girl’s living conditions, but court records released Wednesday also sought to prove he had regular contact with the girl and knew full well about her tragic situation.

The records quote one of his daughters who said Benson fed LP, watched all three girls when Prince was gone, and yelled at LP when LP got in trouble. Court records also quote a friend or relative of Prince who said Benson was at the apartment with Prince every time she talked on the phone with Prince.

That witness said she last saw LP at Thanksgiving and that the girl ate so much she got a stomach ache. The girl also drank a lot, the witness told police. When the witness asked Prince why the girl seemed so hungry and thirsty, Prince allegedly said LP was “just greedy.”

According to documents filed last month in Jackson County family court, the process has begun to terminate the parental rights of Benson and Prince for all three girls. Benson, who is not the biological father of LP, is accused of some of the same things that Prince is.

“Jacole Prince and her boyfriend, Marcus Benson, have physically abused (LP) by hitting her with their fists in her stomach, face, back and legs, which have left the marks, scars and bruises on (LP’s) body,” a filing said.

Documents also allege Benson was involved on June 22, the day LP was rescued from the closet.

“... Mother Jacole Prince, and her boyfriend, Marcus Benson locked the child in the closet by wrapping rubber bands about the closet door handles and pushing a child’s pack and play against the doors.”

To reach Christine Vendel, call 816-234-4438 or send email to cvendel@kcstar.com.

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