Mental illnesses combined with a troubled childhood affected Jacole Prince’s parenting abilities, a defense expert testified Thursday in the Kansas City woman’s trial on child abuse charges.
Prince believed locking her 10-year-old daughter, known as LP, in the closet was a way of protecting her, the expert said.
Prince, 32, is accused of repeatedly locking LP in a closet, seldom feeding her, keeping her out of school and neglecting to see that she got adequate medical care prior to the girl’s rescue in June 2012. Prince faces charges of child endangerment, first-degree assault and child abuse.
The prosecution rested its case Thursday with a final witness who talked about LP’s heart transplant.
Afterward, Prince told Jackson County Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs that she would not be testifying in her defense, which often is the case for criminal defendants. Youngs questioned Prince to make sure that was her choice. She said it was.
The defense turned instead to Marilyn Hutchinson, a psychologist with Hutchison & Associates in Kansas City.
Hutchinson testified that Prince has recurrent major depression, which impairs day-to-day life, and she has schizotypal personality disorder, which creates interpersonal and perception difficulties.
The personality disorder was most applicable in this case, Hutchinson testified. Prince had few close friends and felt discomfort with them. She didn’t have close association with her immediate family. Prince grew anxious when asked to socially interact.
Because of the personality disorder, Prince also held unusual beliefs, Hutchinson said. She believed she needed to protect LP from school. She also believed withholding food was a way to potty train, and that small-framed bodies were better than larger-framed ones, Hutchinson said.
Jurors also heard about Prince’s childhood, including a violent stepfather and problems with her mother, who accused Prince of trying to steal away her boyfriends. One day when Prince was in 10th grade, she came home to a locked house. Her mother would not let her inside. Prince became homeless.
The final prosecution witness, who testified Thursday morning, described events leading up to LP’s heart transplant on April 25, 2013, in St. Louis.
Damage to her heart started before LP got rescued on June 22, 2012, said Catherine Simon, a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
LP spent eight days in the hospital for treatment of acute dehydration, Simon said. Her foster mother took her home on June 30. But as LP grew more active, her foster mother noticed swelling in her feet.
The foster mother took LP back to Children’s Mercy on July 3. Simon joined the treatment team the next month.
Jackson County Assistant Prosecutor Trisha Lacey asked why doctors did not note possible heart issues when LP first arrived at Children’s Mercy. It was not until LP grew more active following her release that possible heart issues began to appear, Simon said.
She said LP likely would face the possibility of a second heart transplant in about 10 to 15 years.
During questioning by defense attorney Caitlin Stephenson, Simon testified that a cardiologist had not been brought in when LP first arrived at the hospital because there was no immediate suspicion of heart failure.
The defense responded with testimony from Janice Ophoven, a Minnesota pediatric forensic pathologist. She said she disagreed with prosecutors on whether chronic malnutrition likely caused LP’s heart disease.
Her type of heart condition can have “a vast number of causes,” Ophoven testified.
Late Thursday, Youngs told jurors that the case could be given to them Friday.
The Star’s previous coverage of LP’s case:
Day 1 of the trial:
Day 2 of the trial:
Day 3 of the trial:
Before the trial: