Police Rescue Malnourished Girl From Closet in Kansas City

Neighbors say they didn't know little girl existed.

ByABC News
June 24, 2012, 12:11 PM

June 24, 2012— -- A Kansas City, Mo., mother is behind bars, accused of keeping her 10-year-old daughter locked in a closet, not letting her come out to eat, sleep or even go to the bathroom.

The girl weighed just 32 pounds, and hospital records indicated that she has only gained 6 pounds since she was 4 or 5 years old, according to a police probable cause statement. The girl also suffers from "multiple healing skin injuries and failure to thrive," the statement said.

"She weighed a little over a third of what a 10-year-old should weigh," Kansas City Police Capt. Steve Young said. "We don't know how long or how frequently she's been in there [the closet], but it's clear she'd spent a significant amount of time in there."

Kansas City police met Missouri Children's Division workers outside the apartment building Friday morning after the division received a hotline call about a girl who was locked up and unable to eat or use the restroom.

When a division worker told two women outside the apartment that three children lived in the apartment, the neighbors said they had never seen the third child even though they'd lived there for "several years."

"We never knew of her the whole three years we've been down here," Kimberly Kelley, another neighbor, told ABC's affiliate in Kansas City, KMBC-TV. "She told us she only had two kids."

Officers learned the mother, Jacole Prince, 29, was out with her two younger children, but maintenance let law enforcement inside, according to the probable cause statement.

The second floor smelled strongly of urine, and when officers noticed a crib pushed against a closet door that was tied off with rope, they asked, "Is anyone in here?"

A child's voice answered, "Yes."

The girl was found standing in the closet, according to the statement. She told officers "the closet was her room," and she couldn't go to breakfast with her mother and sisters because she "messes herself." She also sleeps there, she said.

At the hospital, the child told detectives she had not been let out of the closet for two days, and she does not eat every day. She said her mother gets mad and "punches her on the back" because she "keeps peeing on herself."

She is not allowed to play outside like her sisters, and instead has to play behind the couch, the girl said.

That night, police arrested the girl's mother and her boyfriend. The mother allegedly admitted to locking her child up in part because she knows she would get in trouble if anyone saw how malnourished the girl had become, according to the statement.

Her boyfriend denied knowing the mother ever locked the 10-year-old in a closet.

The girl's mother was charged with assault in the first degree, child abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree, according to the criminal complaint. All three charges are felonies.