Innocence lost: A timeline of child abuse cases in the Kansas City area

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The cases seem to pop up with alarming regularity -- allegations of children being starved, beaten, chained and even killed by those who are supposed to love them most.

It's been a grim year for child abuse in the Kansas City area.

The images plucked from these stories are haunting: A girl locked in a closet, covered in feces; a boy allegedly kicked to death by his stepmother; a baby found with fractured legs his own mother admitted to breaking.

Recently, a mentally-challenged teen was found handcuffed to a pole inside his father's basement in the Northland.

Which begs the question: Are more children being abused than ever before?

Jeanetta Issa, president and CEO of the Child Abuse Prevention Association, says no.

"I think (these cases) have always been there, but we're in the day of technology where more and more people find out about them sooner," she explained. "These bizarre cases seem to be coming to light more."

Here's a look at some of those cases, including what charges -- if any -- are pending against the alleged abusers. You can click each picture for more details.

June 22, 2012 -- L.P.

A 10-year-old girl was found locked in a closet in her mother's apartment in the 1300 block of Highland. The closet was rigged to only open from the outside. The little girl, identified in court documents as L.P., was covered in her own waste and weighed only 32 pounds when police found her.

Records indicate she last attended school as a kindergartner in 2006. Neighbors told 41 Action News they never even knew she existed.

Her mother, Jacole Prince, was charged with first-degree assault, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. She is still in jail, awaiting her trial on Dec. 2. Prince's boyfriend, Marcus Benson, was also charged with endangering the welfare of a child. He received a seven-year suspended sentence in exchange for five years probation.

July 5, 2012 -- G.W.

Kansas City police were called out to a home in the 1100 block of Pacific Street on a tip that a child was being abused. When they arrived, they found 8-year-old G.W. scrubbing the floor of her bedroom, which smelled strongly of urine and trash. She was locked in from the outside.

Her aunt and uncle were her primary caretakers. The little girl told police she was locked in the room for a month at a time and was not allowed to use the bathroom. She did not attend school regularly.

Her sister, 5-year-old K.N., also lived in the home, but appeared to be healthy and unharmed. Jeffrey and Michele Kraft were both charged with first-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child. They have been released on bond. Jeffrey's trial is set for July 29, and Michele's for Sept. 30.

October 17, 2012 -- Lucas Webb

Four-year-old Lucas Webb had told an adult his stepmother kicked him in the stomach at least once, according to court documents. He died weeks later from blunt force trauma.

An autopsy revealed his ribs had been fractured and separated for six to eight weeks before he died. Family members say daycare teachers contacted the Missouri Department of Social Services when they noticed injuries on Lucas' body, but nothing was done.

The little boy's stepmother, Melissa Webb, and his father, Justin Webb, were both charged with second-degree murder and child abuse. Justin is out of jail and is expected in court July 9. Melissa is still in jail, with her next court date scheduled for June 6.

November 6, 2012 -- T.W.

Officials at Children's Mercy Hospital contacted police after noticing signs consistent with child abuse during an exam of T.W. Among the injuries: three fractures on the little boy's right leg, and one fracture on his left leg.

T.W. was not even 1-month-old when the alleged abuse occurred. His mother, Lacresha Young, eventually admitted to causing the injuries, according to the police report.

Young was charged with first-degree assault, first-degree endangering the welfare of a child and child abuse. She is being held on a $100,000 bond, and her trial is set for Oct. 7.

January 14, 2013 -- Stephon McCoy

Three-month-old Stephon McCoy was rushed to the hospital after the woman taking care of him called police, saying he wasn't breathing. He died three days later on Jan. 17.

A doctor at Children's Mercy told investigators Stephon had multiple injuries consistent with being shaken -- including extensive brain damage, internal bleeding and bruises on several parts of his body.

Stephon was being cared for by his uncle and his uncle's girlfriend, Sonya Perry, when the fatal injuries occurred.

Perry was charged with second-degree murder, abuse of a child and first-degree endangering the welfare of

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The cases seem to pop up with alarming regularity -- allegations of children being starved, beaten, chained and even killed by those who are supposed to love them most.

It's been a grim year for child abuse in the Kansas City area.

The images plucked from these stories are haunting: A girl locked in a closet, covered in feces; a boy allegedly kicked to death by his stepmother; a baby found with fractured legs his own mother admitted to breaking.

Recently, a mentally-challenged teen was found handcuffed to a pole inside his father's basement in the Northland.

Which begs the question: Are more children being abused than ever before?

Jeanetta Issa, president and CEO of the Child Abuse Prevention Association, says no.

"I think (these cases) have always been there, but we're in the day of technology where more and more people find out about them sooner," she explained. "These bizarre cases seem to be coming to light more."

Here's a look at some of those cases, including what charges -- if any -- are pending against the alleged abusers. You can click each picture for more details.

June 22, 2012 -- L.P.

A 10-year-old girl was found locked in a closet in her mother's apartment in the 1300 block of Highland. The closet was rigged to only open from the outside. The little girl, identified in court documents as L.P., was covered in her own waste and weighed only 32 pounds when police found her.

Records indicate she last attended school as a kindergartner in 2006. Neighbors told 41 Action News they never even knew she existed.

Her mother, Jacole Prince, was charged with first-degree assault, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. She is still in jail, awaiting her trial on Dec. 2. Prince's boyfriend, Marcus Benson, was also charged with endangering the welfare of a child. He received a seven-year suspended sentence in exchange for five years probation.

July 5, 2012 -- G.W.

Kansas City police were called out to a home in the 1100 block of Pacific Street on a tip that a child was being abused. When they arrived, they found 8-year-old G.W. scrubbing the floor of her bedroom, which smelled strongly of urine and trash. She was locked in from the outside.

Her aunt and uncle were her primary caretakers. The little girl told police she was locked in the room for a month at a time and was not allowed to use the bathroom. She did not attend school regularly.

Her sister, 5-year-old K.N., also lived in the home, but appeared to be healthy and unharmed. Jeffrey and Michele Kraft were both charged with first-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child. They have been released on bond. Jeffrey's trial is set for July 29, and Michele's for Sept. 30.

October 17, 2012 -- Lucas Webb

Four-year-old Lucas Webb had told an adult his stepmother kicked him in the stomach at least once, according to court documents. He died weeks later from blunt force trauma.

An autopsy revealed his ribs had been fractured and separated for six to eight weeks before he died. Family members say daycare teachers contacted the Missouri Department of Social Services when they noticed injuries on Lucas' body, but nothing was done.

The little boy's stepmother, Melissa Webb, and his father, Justin Webb, were both charged with second-degree murder and child abuse. Justin is out of jail and is expected in court July 9. Melissa is still in jail, with her next court date scheduled for June 6.

November 6, 2012 -- T.W.

Officials at Children's Mercy Hospital contacted police after noticing signs consistent with child abuse during an exam of T.W. Among the injuries: three fractures on the little boy's right leg, and one fracture on his left leg.

T.W. was not even 1-month-old when the alleged abuse occurred. His mother, Lacresha Young, eventually admitted to causing the injuries, according to the police report.

Young was charged with first-degree assault, first-degree endangering the welfare of a child and child abuse. She is being held on a $100,000 bond, and her trial is set for Oct. 7.

January 14, 2013 -- Stephon McCoy

Three-month-old Stephon McCoy was rushed to the hospital after the woman taking care of him called police, saying he wasn't breathing. He died three days later on Jan. 17.

A doctor at Children's Mercy told investigators Stephon had multiple injuries consistent with being shaken -- including extensive brain damage, internal bleeding and bruises on several parts of his body.

Stephon was being cared for by his uncle and his uncle's girlfriend, Sonya Perry, when the fatal injuries occurred.

Perry was charged with second-degree murder, abuse of a child and first-degree endangering the welfare of

February 4, 2013 -- John Doe

A mentally-challenged teenager was found handcuffed to a pole in his father's basement in the Northland on Feb. 4. The 17-year-old boy told police his daily diet consisted of one packet of oatmeal, one package of Ramen noodles and two bologna sandwiches.

When officers began walking downstairs to the cold and dark basement where the boy was being held, they heard him say "I didn't do anything. I didn't do anything."

The teen told police he'd been in the basement since Sept. 27, 2012, when his father withdrew him from school to reportedly homeschool him.

His stepmother, father and older brother all lived in the home with him. One of them told police the teen was locked in the basement because they let him upstairs in December, and he ate almost an entire bowl of fruit.

The father, 42-year-old David Martin, and his wife, 41-year-old Pamela Martin, were both charged with one count each of felonious restraint and abuse of a child.

David's next court appearance is May 23, and Pamela's is set for May 16.

How you can help

Jeanetta Issa with CAPA urges anyone who suspects possible child abuse to report it. Signs of abuse include frequent bruises or injuries, abrupt changes in character or behavior and neglect.

The Missouri child abuse hotline is 1-800-392-3738. The Kansas child abuse hotline is 1-800-922-5330.

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Steve Kaut contributed to this report.

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