Experts Say Child Found in Closet is Possibly a “Target Child”

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --  The mother of the 10-year old girl found living in her own filth is facing charges.  Jacole Prince is in jail after her case was brought before a judge earlier Monday.  Prince faces charges of assault, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.

Her bond has been set at $200,000 cash.  Prince has two other children that also lived in the home.  Authorities say those children were well cared for and well fed.  So, the question is why did Prince allegedly mistreat the 10-year-old to the point that she weighed just 32 pounds?  Police discovered the girl locked in the closet after someone phoned in an anonymous tip.

"She never talked about a third child, the kids never talked about having an older brother-sister, " says neighbor Aishah Coppage

The 29-year-old mother is accused of locking her oldest daughter in a closet that court records say reeked of urine. The girl told police she was rarely let out, and didn't eat on a daily basis. But that's not how neighbors saw Prince as a mother, because neighbors only knew about Prince's younger two kids.

"I thought she was a good mother because her other two kids were clean, were always combed, never seemed hungry or anything of that nature," says Coppage.

The Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates or CASA in Johnson and Wyandotte Counties says she appears to be a target child.  Lois Rice says often times one child in the home is mistreated because of behavioral or emotional challenges that the other children may not have.

"Those are especially heartbreaking," Rice said.  "They especially touch your heart and cause concern when you see such severe abuse inflicted on any child."

Rice says it could also be that the child reminds the abuser of someone they don't have a positive connection with.

"We are aware of other cases where children have been instructed to withhold food from the target child.  To refuse to include the target child in other family activities.  Well that is abuse to those children as well," said Rice.

In the Prince case, court documents show that the 10-year-old was fathered by a different man than the two younger kids.

"This is the most extreme example of abuse inflicted on one particular child.  It is very, very extreme," said Rice.

But neighbors still ask how any mother could treat any of her children this way.

"It's beyond the word awful," said Coppage.

CASA works with many of the 4,000 kids currently in the court system because of abuse or neglect.  Though they can't say if they are working with the Prince case.  Rice says child abuse cases have gone up 30 percent in the Kansas City metro area since 2008.

Rice stresses the importance of reporting child abuse, even saying you don't have to have proof, but if you suspect a child may be abused or neglected call the hotline and let police investigate. The Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline in Missouri is 1-800-392-3738. Click here for more information about the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect's hotline.

The Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline in Kansas is 1-800-922-5330. Click here for their website.

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