A Kansas City elementary school student told a school counselor there was a body in her family’s basement.
It was her mother, police said, and her father is charged with murder.
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday charged Benjamin H. Byers, 45, with second degree murder in the stabbing death of 47-year-old Melissa Byers.
Byers is also charged with armed criminal action, the abandonment of a corpse and endangering the welfare of a child.
According to court documents, police were called by officials at Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School on Wednesday because a child said she had seen her mother’s dead body in the basement of the family’s home in east Kansas City.
It was a secret she kept overnight, she would tell police later, because she feared for her own life.
Police had to force their way into the home. Benjamin Byers met them in the living room and said, upon questioning, that he did not know where his wife was and that he’d last seen her Monday going to work.
Police followed a trail of blood drops throughout the house into the basement, where they found a blood-covered tarp. After securing a search warrant they found more blood and what appeared to be drag marks in the basement.
The marks led to a body wrapped in carpeting, plastic, sheets and clothing.
Police also noted what appeared to be attempts to clean the dining room, living room, kitchen and bathroom.
Byers, who declined under his Miranda rights to speak with detectives, was taken into custody.
A forensic interviewer with the Child Protection Center further questioned the child. She said that her father had been acting “weird” and indicated he had been drinking when he picked her up from school Tuesday. When they got home, she said, he asked her to get him a beer and he fell asleep.
The child said she went through the house and saw “lots of blood.” She made her way down to the basement, where she said she saw the body with what she thought was a stab in the back.
She said that a friend of her mother’s called her mother’s phone that evening and she told him she didn’t know where her mother was. She said she didn’t tell the friend or her father what she had seen in the house because “I didn’t want to be next.”