KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A little girl found locked in a closet turned 11 on Wednesday, as neighbors who never knew she existed threw a birthday party in her honor.
The girl, known as LP, was rescued from a locked closet in an apartment she shared with her mother and two siblings in June.
LP was not at the celebration held at the Kansas City, Mo., apartment complex, but her neighbors said they had about 400 birthday cards from strangers waiting for her.
Residents said the celebration of LP's life was the least they could do.
It is the kind of love and support 11-year-old LP needed years ago when she was unknown to her neighbors, living a horrific life in dark solitude on the second floor.
Children's Mercy Hospital sees 3,000 abused children from the area each year, doctors said, usually after someone who's brave and observant enough comes forward to help.
"This is an issue that has broad consequences, reaches beyond one child and touches society," said Dr. Jim Anderst, a Children's Mercy pediatrician specializing in child abuse.
LP lived in the Theron B. Watkins Homes on Highland for years.
Outsiders said they never knew she existed.
"My sister's been here three years and she's never seen her," said resident Kimberly Cottage. "That's kinda unbelievable."
Doctors said more children suffer from neglect than any other kind of abuse, including sexual abuse or physical abuse -- 40 to 50 kids out of 1,000, according to Anderst.
Its effects are the most difficult to recover from, if ever.
"Kids' bodies will physically heal in most cases, but healing from psychological damage is much much harder," Anderst said. "Often it never gets done. That's why neglect, those children have very hard roads ahead of them."
Five weeks ago, authorities found LP locked in a tiny, dark closet. The then 10-year-old was just 32 pounds.
Court documents said the neglect started years ago.
Neighbors knew of LP's two other sisters, who appeared to live normal, healthy lives, neighbors said.
Neglect can go on for years.
Doctors explained that children who are neglected think that is life as normal. They do not know to tell anyone else, so often they will endure the neglect for years, until someone, as in LP's case, comes forward.
"Most people can identify with a time in their life that they still remember that affects them in a negative way now," Anderst said. "Imagine if your whole childhood was like that - growing up in a home where parents didn't pay attention to you, ignored you and treated you poorly, as an adult you would have a hard time functioning well."
One little girl's neglect has reached far beyond her. LP now lives with foster parents; her mother, Jacole Prince, is jailed awaiting trial; and a community is still feeling regret for not knowing more five weeks later.
Prince's boyfriend, Marcus Benson, was also charged in the case. They will be in court August 9.
A similar case of abuse is also under investigation, after an 8-year-old girl known as GW was found severely malnourished and locked in a bedroom in Kansas City.
Her aunt and uncle were charged with assault and child endangerment.