Jacole Prince, the Kansas City mother convicted for the child abuse of her oldest daughter faced sentencing on Jan. 15. She will serve 34 years at the Missouri State penitentiary.
In November 2015, a jury found her guilty of child abuse, first-degree assault and child endangerment. Among the evidence, jurors heard that Prince forced her daughter, referred to as LP, to live in a closet for years.
LP's nightmare began long before police rescued her from a locked closet in the family's apartment in 2012.
A LOOK BACK
October 7, 2005
Jacole Prince takes 4-year-old LP to Children’s Mercy Hospital, claiming that the girl has ingested Pine-Sol. During treatment, a hospital staffer becomes concerned about possible neglect and reports it to the Department of Social Services, which in turn reports it to the police. The detective involved chooses not to open a criminal investigation.
During a follow-up visit, LP receives a medical diagnosis of Failure to Thrive, which indicates that she is dramatically underweight and has not exhibited the same rate of weight gain as other children of her age and gender. Read more
After Prince fails to take LP to a doctor for scheduled appointments related to the Failure to Thrive diagnosis, LP is hospitalized again.
Both LP and her younger sister, MB, are removed from Prince’s care and placed in the custody of Marcus Benson, who is Prince’s boyfriend and MB’s father.
Prince admits to withholding food and water from LP to prevent the child from defecating and urinating, according to documents from the Jackson County Family Court Division.
LP and her sister are returned to Prince’s care and move back in with her at T.B. Watkins Apartment Homes — the same public housing complex where LP will later be found locked in the closet.
June 22, 2012
After receiving a call from a neighbor, police rescue LP from a closet in Prince’s home, where she had been regularly confined for several years.
At the time of the rescue, 10-year-old LP weighed 32 pounds and fit into toddler-sized clothes; she was also found with bruises and other marks of physical abuse.
LP, who has been continuously malnourished, will spend eight days in the hospital before release and quick re-admittance for “refeeding syndrome,” a condition that affects people who begin to eat after a long period of starvation or fasting as their bodies fail to process normal amounts of food. She will later receive a heart transplant in the spring.
She is removed from Prince’s care and placed with a foster family while Prince awaits trial.
July 12, 2012
Prince enters a plea of not guilty to charges of child abuse, child endangerment and assault. Benson is also charged with failure to protect and failure to provide nourishment.
Benson will eventually accept 5 years probation on the condition that he stay away from children, a condition he violates after 6 months. He is then imprisoned on October 10, 2013. Read more
Jan. 7, 2014
Prince switches to a guilty plea as part of a plea agreement that would reduce a possible life sentence to no more than 20 years in prison. Read more
Feb. 8, 2014
The Kansas City Star receives a 42-page letter from Prince in which she claims she did not intend to plead guilty and that she has been manipulated and threatened by her attorney.
Prince describes her home situation as stressful and says she loves her daughters. The disconnected nature of her writing raises concerns that Prince is not fit to stand trial. She will change her plea again more than once.
Nov. 16, 2015
Prince’s jury trial begins. On the first day, assistant defense attorney Caitlin Stephenson claims that Prince’s behavior was a product of mental illness and that prison is not an appropriate place for her rehabilitation.
Prosecutor Trisha Lacey calls on KCPD officers and employees from Children’s Mercy Hospital to testify to LP’s malnourished condition when she was rescued. Read more
Nov. 17, 2015
Several more witnesses take the stand, including LP herself. LP, now 14 years old, testifies that she was kept in the closet both day and night, that her mother would not let her out to use the bathroom and that she was not allowed to eat every day. LP’s foster mother says that the child could not read or write when she first began caring for her and that she is now in a 7th grade special needs course at her school. LP has received both speech and physical therapy since her removal from Prince’s care.
Foster mom: LP struggled with exhaustion issues.Disliked sleeping in bed at first, too soft.Would find her under the bed. #JacolePrinceTrial
— Brian Abel (@BrianAbelTV) November 17, 2015
Court recesses early because Prince’s attorney, Curtis Winegarner, raises concerns that Prince is traumatized and incompetent to stand trial. Read more
Nov. 18, 2015
Prince is deemed competent to stand trial and prescribed anti-anxiety medication. LP’s younger half-sister, known as MB, testifies that she was coached by Prince not to mention that LP was kept in the closet. MB, who was 8 years old when LP was rescued, says that she was physically punished and threatened with further beatings when she told a cousin about LP. Read more
Nov. 20, 2015
A final expert witness, psychologist Steven Mandracchia, testifies that Prince knew what she was doing when she abused LP and that a mental illness defense is not applicable in this case. The court also views a letter from LP to Prince, in which LP writes: “I’m glad you have gone away for the rest of my life. … Don’t worry about me, I am in a better place and a better home.”
The jury finds Prince guilty on all counts and recommends a sentence of up to 34 years in prison. Read more