Boyfriend charged in murder of Essence Willoughby, mother of two found in creek bed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Charges have been filed in the murder of 21-year-old Essence Willoughby, a Kansas City mother whose son led police to her body in November 2012.

Ja Ray, Willoughby's 43-year-old boyfriend, has been charged with first degree murder and armed criminal action charges.

Willoughby's family last saw her as she left for church with her two young sons and Ray on November 11.

Witnesses told Willoughby's family they saw her arguing with Ray outside a corner store at 55th and Paseo Boulevard.

After days of searching, Willoughby's 3-year-old son led police to her body in a wooded area near the intersection of Leeds Trafficway and Stadium Drive.

Court documents said when Willoughby's mother asked about her whereabouts, the children reported that their father had stabbed and drowned their mother.

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The medical examiner said Willoughby was drowned after being stabbed. Court documents said blood tests from Ray's jacket matched hers.

Helen Frazier, Willoughby's mother, said in November her death was a tragic end to a relationship that was violent from the start. However, she said Willoughby believed she could make it work.

"When someone's heart is involved into something so deeply, trusted in a hope that things can be changed by love, then they're going to stay in that," Frazier said. "That's why she stayed in that relationship, in spite of what the end was going to bring."

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Kansas City police took Ray into custody for an unrelated charge shortly after Willoughby's body was found.

He is being held on a $250,000 bond.

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