Records released in case of malnourished 'closet girl' - - Columbia, South Carolina

Police declined to investigate, social workers didn't follow up on 'closet girl's mom

Jacole Prince Jacole Prince

The allegations broke the hearts of Kansas Citians and drew national headlines.

A little girl known in court documents as "L.P." was forced to live in a closet with little food, no light and no love, authorities said. She was found last June.

Her mother, Jacole Prince, is scheduled to go on trial in June for abuse and neglect. Marcus Benson, Prince's boyfriend, called himself L.P.'s father, but he is the actual biological father of her sister.

Benson has pleaded guilty to neglect and was sentenced to five years probation.

For a year, the Missouri Department of Social Services fought releasing records related to their handling of the case involving the child.

Under pressure from Republican leaders in the Missouri General Assembly, the state agency finally did so on Thursday.

And the hundreds of pages of documents show serious concerns in 2005 and 2006 that L.P. was being neglected. The state asked the Kansas City Police Department to pursue an abuse investigation, but a detective declined to do so.

L.P. was even taken from her mother's care in 2006 and spent almost six weeks with a foster family. But after a lengthy process, she was returned to the care of her mother, Jacole Prince. Shortly after that, the neglect allegedly occurred once again and L.P. was locked in a tiny closet, which she was forced to use as a bathroom with little access to food and few cold baths.

And despite serious concerns in the months leading up to Prince getting her daughter back in her care, the state never followed up.

A tip to police led officers and state social workers to a home in Kansas City. L.P. was locked in the tiny closet, but she spoke up for herself when officers searched the home.

"I'm here," she said.

She said she had been longing for her release.

"I would lay there and hope the police would come and get me," she said at Children's Mercy Hospital. "I am so happy you guys came today."

The starved girl asked for a bubble bath with hot water.

This was at least the third time she had been treated at Children's Mercy.

In October 2005, her mother rushed her to the hospital in a virtual coma after she drank Pine-Sol. A breathing tube was inserted and her condition was quite dire before the tiny girl recovered.

The records released Thursday detailed how concerned professionals were about L.P. being neglected and about food kept from her by her mother.

A social worker wanted a criminal investigation but a detective declined to do so. His reason?

"Because Ms. Price was at least smart enough to bring L.P. to the hospital after getting into Pine Sol," the detective is quoted as saying in the records.

The girl went back to the hospital in early 2006 because she was so underweight and was having other issues. That launched a full-blown investigation that resulted in Prince temporarily losing custody of her children.

Benson is described by social workers as helpful and responsive and eager to get the best care for the girls. L.P. would later tell authorities that he abused her.

The documents detail how malnourished L.P. was even as early as 4 years old and how she was stunted in her height. Her mother explained she withheld food so the child wouldn't use the bathroom.

The records also describe how L.P. was a pleasant, polite and joyful little girl when she was first seen in 2005 and 2006. She was still polite in 2012, but the records also show  aggressive and behavioral issues that had developed after years of being locked in a closet.

After L.P. was found last year, there was talk about placing L.P. and her sister in the care of a family member of her sister, but concerns were also raised about that. It's unknown whether the girl is in the care of a family or a foster home and whether she's thriving or not.

Her 12th birthday will be Aug. 1.

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