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Probation is revoked for mother’s boyfriend in the case of KC girl locked in closet

Updated: 2013-10-11T03:11:52Z

By MARK MORRIS

The Kansas City Star

After investigators found an emaciated 10-year-old in his girlfriend’s closet, Marcus Benson promised to stay away from children or face seven years in prison.

But he kept that promise for only six months, so on Thursday, Jackson County deputies cuffed Benson, still wearing his KFC work uniform, and led him off to jail.

Prosecutors charged Benson in July 2012 after authorities found the girl, identified in court records as “LP,” in an apartment closet in the 1300 block of Highland Avenue. She weighed 32 pounds, less than half the average for her age.

Police arrested her mother, Jacole Prince, and took LP and Prince’s other two daughters into protective custody.

Benson, 35, pleaded guilty to child endangerment and initially was sentenced to five years of probation.

As part of his plea agreement, Benson said he would serve a seven-year prison term if he violated the terms of his probation, including having contact with children younger than 17.

At a hearing last month, a prosecutor said Benson had spent time in April with a friend’s children. The contact was not abusive but still violated a clear order from the court, a prosecutor said.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Joel P. Fahnestock said Thursday she was satisfied that Benson had ignored the court’s order. She quizzed lawyers on alternatives to incarceration and other suggestions.

Art Tejeda, Benson’s defense lawyer, asked that his client be allowed to continue on probation. Benson currently is working at a fast-food restaurant and is in a legal fight for custody of his children, who were taken from him after authorities rescued the girl in the closet.

“We believe he has taken steps and is not a danger to the community,” Tejeda said.

Tejeda also suggested that Benson be placed in a halfway house, an idea that Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor Trisha Lacey dismissed because it would not provide the kind of structure Benson needs.

“The state continues to believe that the only way to protect children is to revoke his probation,” Lacey said.

Fahnestock also briefly considered, then rejected, the notion of subjecting Benson to regular polygraph examinations at a cost of about $200 a month. But the point of the probation restriction was to protect children before they were harmed, not catch the violation later with a lie-detector test, she reasoned.

“That’s after the fact,” Fahnestock said.

Ultimately, the judge settled on incarceration and ordered him to prison.

After authorities discovered LP in the closet, Benson, the father of Prince’s other daughters, told police that he hadn’t seen the girl in about a year and thought she lived somewhere else.

But prosecutors said Benson had regular contact with LP and knew about the abuse. Authorities accused both Prince and Benson of “physically abusing (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,” according to court records.

Prince is charged with first-degree assault, abuse of a child and endangering the welfare of a child. Her trial is scheduled for December.

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com.

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