There are new charges in a case that shocked Kansas City after a malnourished 10-year-old girl was found locked in a closet.
The new charges are directed at the boyfriend of Jacole Prince, the mother of the girl.
Marcus Benson, 34, is charged with two counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
Benson was charged last week. He was arrested by Independence police about 7 p.m. Thursday. He was arraigned before a Jackson County judge Friday morning. The judge entered a not guilty plea since Benson doesn't have an attorney yet.
Police received a tip that Benson was hiding inside a residence at 2416 S. Sterling Ave. A woman told police that Benson wasn't there. Officers found Benson inside the attic. The woman, Ashley N. Shaw, was arrested and charged with interfering with a police investigation.
The charges against Benson go back to June, when the 10-year-old girl was discovered locked in a closet in an apartment located on Highland Avenue near 13th Street. The girl was severely malnourished to the point where she was reportedly only one-third of the weight of a normal girl her age.
Court documents said the closet's door was barricaded from the outside using a portable crib and a small rope, and wide shoelaces were bound around the doorknobs.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said the girl was not allowed to eat with the rest of her family, it was clear she was confined off-and-on in the small space for a prolonged period of time and the closet also doubled as her bathroom.
Prince was charged with three different felonies in the case: first-degree assault, abuse of child and first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
The mother of the 10-year-old girl was in court Thursday and neighbors were there for the hearing. Officials at the Jackson County Criminal Justice Center are looking for more information about the mother and her boyfriend.
Prince entered the Jackson County Courthouse without a word Thursday, arraigned on charges of assaulting, abusing and endangering her 10-year-old daughter.
She pleaded not guilty to all three.
Neighbors from the apartment complex watched in the courthouse Thursday, waiting for new details on the alleged abuse that was going on so close for so long.
"For her having that baby up there since Lord knows how long, for her to keep it a secret like that, and just come down to my mom's house every day and drink coffee like it's nothing," Lovetta Parker, Prince's friend, said.
Now the talk in the neighborhood is about Prince's boyfriend after Benson was charged Wednesday with two counts of felony child endangerment. He is still not in custody.
"I know he was around a lot, a whole lot," Parker said of Benson.
Court documents said neighbors told police Benson stayed at Prince's apartment on a regular basis. The little girl said Prince was the only person who put her in the closet and that Benson and her mom had gotten into an argument because he said the girl needed to be let out of the closet to be fed. The little girl told police Benson had once tried to give her a hamburger and fries, but it made her stomach hurt.
According to court documents, Benson told police he hadn't seen the little girl in about a year. He said he'd asked Prince at times where the little girl was and she would tell him the girl was either with her aunt or in her room because she was in trouble.
He denied living at Prince's apartment, but said he visited it regularly to see his two kids, Prince's other two children.
Benson told police he never knew Prince put the little girl in the closet or else he would have done something about it.
"How could he not know about that baby being in that closet?" Parker asked.
Now neighbors are questioning whether the girl was singled out, starved until she weighed less than half what she should, in part because Benson was not her father, unlike the girl's two well-cared-for siblings.
Prince will now appear in court on Aug. 9 at 3 p.m. for her pre-trial conference.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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