Failure to protect

Group sets up fund for girl kept in closet

After a public outcry, monetary donations, gifts and cards can be sent to 10-year-old LP.

Updated: 2012-07-18T07:03:19Z

By LAURA BAUER

The Kansas City Star

For more than three weeks, people across the metropolitan area and the country have asked how they could help the 10-year-old girl who was rescued from a closet.

Now there’s a way.

The Local Investment Commission said Tuesday that it has organized a fund where people can send monetary donations. People also now have a place to mail care packages and birthday cards for the girl, known in court records as LP. She turns 11 on Aug. 1.

LINC officials said they would make sure all donations get to the girl, who weighed just 32 pounds and had scars of abuse across her body when authorities found her in a dark and tiny closet on June 22.

“When these things happen, there’s a public outcry to want to help, to assist,” said Gayle Hobbs, president of LINC, a nonprofit agency. “Our role is to help meet the community needs.”

People have written and called, saying they feel a need to comfort the girl, give her toys and kind words, things it appears she hasn’t gotten enough of for many years.

“My oldest daughter just turned 11 in July, so it really hit home on all of the things in life she has missed so far. It’s very sad,” one woman wrote this week.

One family has wanted to buy her an American Girl doll. Others want to make sure she has things like crayons and coloring books, paper and stickers.

“Anything we get, we’ll get to her,” said Brent Schondelmeyer, communications director at LINC.

Others have inquired about her health and have offered to provide foster care for her or even a more permanent home. One woman wrote: “I’d like to help LP even to the extent of raising her and caring for her and loving her and adopting her.”

The girl’s mother, Jacole Prince, has been charged with felony counts of assault, child abuse and child endangerment. She has pleaded not guilty.

Prince was arrested after authorities responded to a hotline call June 22. A man police said is Prince’s boyfriend, Marcus Benson — father of her two younger daughters, but not LP — has also been charged with two counts of child endangerment. As of Tuesday evening, he wasn’t in police custody.

LP told authorities that her mother locked her in an upstairs closet in the family’s apartment in the 1300 block of Highland Avenue for long periods of time. She said she slept in the closet and was often not allowed out to go to the bathroom.

When police found the girl, the closet was soaked in urine and feces, with no light or toys, according to court records.

LP also told authorities she didn’t get to eat every day.

Records show that Prince admitted in early 2006 that she intentionally withheld food from LP so she wouldn’t go to the bathroom too often. The state took custody of LP and a younger sister in February 2006. About 13 months later, after Prince reportedly worked through a checklist of requirements set by the state, she got her two daughters back.

A month later, LP stopped going to school and disappeared from sight. Neighbors of Prince have said they didn’t even know that LP lived in the apartment, although they had often seen Prince with her two other daughters, ages 2 and 8.

All three girls are in the custody of the Missouri Department of Social Services. Benson’s sister, Shelia Simpson, said last week that her brother has had one supervised visit with his two daughters since they were taken into custody. That visit came before charges were filed against him.

It isn’t known if the three sisters will be reunited in foster care.

At this point, the goal for many in the community is to make sure that LP knows that people are thinking of her.

“There are a lot of people in Kansas City that really care,” Hobbs said. “We’ve seen this before; people will organize to try to help.”

To reach Laura Bauer, call 816-234-4944 or send email to lbauer@kcstar.com.

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