Not-guilty pleas entered for couple accused of locking girl in bedroom

A couple accused of neglecting their 8-year-old malnourished niece and confining her in a bedroom appeared in Jackson County Circuit Court for the first time Monday.

Jeffrey “Adam” Kraft, 34, and Michele L. Buckner-Kraft, 28, each face two felonies: assault and child endangerment. Prosecutors charged them Friday after a two-week investigation that stemmed from a call to the child abuse hotline.

Deputies escorted them into a courtroom along with more than a dozen other inmates. They wore orange jail jumpsuits and were shackled at the waist and feet.

A relative of Michele cleared her throat to get Michele’s attention as she entered. Michele smiled at her and other relatives in the gallery.

A judge read the charges against each defendant separately, entered routine not-guilty pleas for each and kept their bonds at $100,000 each. Both defendants said they did not have the money to hire an attorney. The judge said both would be screened for public defender services.

Adam mouthed some words to relatives as he left the courtroom. Michele mouthed, “I love you,” to relatives. The relatives declined to comment after the hearing.

Social service workers and police went to the Krafts’ home July 5 to check on the 8-year-old girl after someone called the hotline. Police found the 42-pound girl locked in a trash-filled room that reeked of urine. She was using bleach to scrub the floor clean of urine. The Krafts had legal custody of the girl, known in court records as GW, and her 5-year-old sister, KN, for four years.

GW had a normal growth curve when she was younger, but she had lost more than six pounds while in the care of the Krafts, according to court records. KN did not suffer any medical problems. KN told social service workers that her sister was locked in the room “almost all the time,” according to court records.

The Missouri Children’s Division took custody of both girls and the Krafts’ 5-month-old baby. A longtime friend of the Krafts told The Star last week that he thought their intentions were good, but they may have gotten in over their heads with GW, who he said had behavioral problems.

Their next court appearance was set for Aug. 9.