Bail set for mother charged with keeping girl in closet

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 25, 2012 6:01 PM
Bail set for mother charged with keeping girl in closet

By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Bail was set at $200,000 Monday for a Missouri woman charged with keeping her malnourished 10-year-old daughter locked in a closet.

Police found the girl, who weighed only 32 pounds (14.5 kg), on Friday, trapped in the closet with the door tied shut and a playpen pushed against it, Kansas City police said.

The girl's mother, Jacole Prince, 29, was charged on Saturday with assault, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. A judge on Monday entered a not-guilty plea on Prince's behalf and Prince asked for a public defender.

Police responded to a call the state had received on its child services hotline about the girl being held in the closet. Two neighbors told police Prince had just left her apartment building with her two little girls and they were unaware Prince had an older girl, too.

Officers entered the apartment, saw the closet barricaded and asked if anyone was inside.

"Then, they heard a small child's voice say 'yes,'" the police statement said. Officers found her "malnourished and very small for her age." She was wearing a toddlers' -size shirt and weighed only 32 pounds, a hospital later reported.

The girl told police her mother got upset with her because she peed in her pants.

They quoted the girl as saying that her mother sometimes punched her on the back "real hard," and had left that morning to take the two younger girls to breakfast.

Police found Prince on Friday afternoon at another residence with a man neighbors said spent a lot of time at her apartment. She and the man were taken into custody but he told police he was unaware of the girl being kept in the closet and was not charged.

The police statement quoted Prince as saying that she had been putting her daughter in the closet for several months when she left the house. She said she was "embarrassed" at how the girl looked and believed she "would get in trouble if someone saw her," the statement said.

The girl was admitted to Kansas City's Children's Mercy Hospital and diagnosed with "multiple healing skin injuries and failure to thrive," the statement said. She remained in hospital on Monday, said a spokesman for the Jackson County prosecutor.

The mother remained in custody and her next court appearance was set for July 12.

(Reporting By Kevin Murphy; Editing By Mary Wisniewski and David Brunnstrom)