A 10-year-old boy kept locked in a filthy Independence basement without food weighed only 40 pounds when rescued this week after he ran away from home, police said.
“He was in pretty bad shape,” said Sgt. Darrell Schmidli, an Independence Police Department spokesman. “He was definitely malnourished.”
It’s unclear at what point the child’s living conditions deteriorated, but earlier family photos posted on Facebook show a child more robust looking than the thin-faced one captured in more recent photographs.
School officials, who often can spot signs of abuse and neglect, were unable to in this case because the boy was not enrolled in his neighborhood Fort Osage district elementary school, officials said.
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Independence police did have prior contact with the family, however. In October, a neighbor alerted police that one of the family’s children was wandering through the neighborhood unsupervised, Schmidli said.
Schmidli said he did not know which child had been involved, but a mother soon contacted police, who released the child to her custody, he said.
Months earlier, someone apparently criticized the parents’ treatment of a child, according to a Facebook post by one of his mothers.
That mother, LaTrecia Hendrix, lashed out through a social media post in June.
“Trust and believe my kids all three of our kids are well taken care of, find something to do with yourself and stay out of mine,” LaTrecia Hendrix wrote. “Better yet take care of your own cause our kids got everything they need and then some.”
Prosecutors charged LaTrecia L. Hendrix, 36, and the child’s biological mother, Chianna Hendrix, 25, with one count each of abuse or neglect of a child causing serious emotional or physical injury.
The women, who got married in 2009 in Massachusetts, made initial court appearances Wednesday. Each is being held on $100,000 bond. They have preliminary hearings scheduled for April 22.
Police learned about the boy’s condition on Monday after he ran away from the family’s home in the 400 block of North Ponca Drive. Officers noted that he was emaciated, underdeveloped and covered with scratches and bruises, according to court records.
Investigators found bottles of urine on the basement floor; feces on a bed with little bedding; and no clothing.
The child, identified in court records as D.E., immediately became ill after police fed him. An ambulance took him to a hospital. Police noticed fingernail scratches all over his neck and face. He was not able to control his bladder or bowels.
A 5-year-old sibling told an investigator the women often beat the boy for stealing food and kept him in the basement with the door tied shut, according to court records.
Earlier this school year, LaTrecia Hendrix had been assigned through Kelly Services as a temporary teaching assistant at the Richardson Early Learning Center, according to Kansas City Public Schools officials.
LaTrecia Hendrix passed an extensive background check, which is required of all people working at public schools, officials said. As of Wednesday, district officials said they had not received any reports that would suggest that LaTrecia Hendrix abused or mistreated students at Richardson.
LaTrecia Hendrix has been removed from her temporary assignment and will not be used by the school district in the future, according to the district.
Rebecca L. Woelfel, a spokeswoman for Missouri Children’s Services, cited state confidentiality laws when declining to say whether the agency had been in contact with the family before Monday.
It is unclear if the boy was being home-schooled. Missouri does not require parents to report homeschooling to state education officials or the local school district.
According to court documents filed Tuesday, the women admitted they didn’t take the child to a doctor for about two years because they had no health insurance.
Chianna Hendrix told police the child became ill every time he ate. She said the boy caused the scratch marks.
She also said the child’s inability to control his bladder led to nightly bed-wetting and she had the child wipe the mattress down every week while she washed the bedding. She said she knew the child needed medical care but she refused to take him to a physician, according to court records.
LaTrecia Hendrix denied any other type of abuse or neglect but said the child was punished for “stealing” food.
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