Court upholds murder conviction in incestuous Cass County case

A Missouri appeals court upheld a Cass County man’s conviction Tuesday in the murder of a child he conceived during a long incestuous relationship with his daughter.

Danial Morgan Rinehart, 51, is serving a life sentence following his 2010 convictions for second-degree murder, child endangerment, statutory rape, incest and two counts of abandonment of a corpse.

Jurors heard evidence that Rinehart carried on an incestuous relationship with one of his daughters that began when she was 5 years old and produced four babies.

Authorities found the bodies of two infants in sealed coolers in a shed on a small farm where the family lived north of Harrisonville. Another baby died in Oklahoma and was buried there. Only one of the babies, a boy, survived.

In his appeal, Rinehart argued that his trial judge should have acquitted him on the murder and child endangerment charges because the evidence did not prove that he “knew” he was creating a risk to the life or health of a child.

The murder count was for a child, Jack, who was born Nov. 17, 2006, when Rinehart’s daughter was 17. Sickly from birth, Jack did not improve with over-the-counter medicines that Rinehart provided. And he refused his daughter’s pleas to take Jack to a doctor or a hospital, according to her testimony.

Jack died in his mother’s arms in February 2007.

Appeals judges brushed aside a defense argument that the court could set a dangerous precedent by upholding the convictions. A defense lawyer argued that if a child is sicker than its parents believe, they could be charged with child endangerment if they administer over-the-counter medicines rather than going to a doctor.

Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Karen King Mitchell said that fact would have to be considered with the other circumstances.

“A reasonable juror could have found, based on the totality of the circumstances, that Rinehart was aware of Jack’s health condition and that he knew that failing to obtain professional medical care was practically certain to create a substantial risk to Jack’s life, body or health,” Mitchell wrote.