Mother of girl, 10, found locked in closet pleads guilty

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The mother of a 10-year-old girl found living in a locked, unsanitary closet pleaded guilty Tuesday to three felonies connected to the abuse of her daughter.

Prince initially wasn't sure that she wanted to plead guilty. But after a meeting with her lawyers, the 30-year-old mom decided it was in her best interest to plead guilty to first-degree assault, abuse of a child and endangering the welfare of a child. In exchange for her guilty pleas, prosecutors agreed not to seek punishment longer than 20 years in prison for all of the counts.

Jacole Prince in court Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014.
Jacole Prince in court Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014.

Prince left the courtroom with her lawyers and did not speak to reporters, but in front of a judge she said she suffers from depression and has been treated for depression while in jail. Her lawyer says Prince's depression is not a defense against the charges.

Back in June of 2012, Kansas City police found Prince's 10-year-old daughter, known only as "L.P.," inside a closet, where the doors were tied together with shoelaces and a crib blocked the front of the doors.

When paramedics rushed the girl to Children's Mercy Hospital she weighed only 32 pounds. She told detectives she had to sleep in the closet, was not fed every day and could not go outside.

The prosecutor says she suffered from severe chronic malnutrition. As a result of this malnutrition, she developed low anemia, vitamin deficiencies and developmental delays. L.P. also suffered heart damage and heart failure and underwent a heart transplant in the spring of 2013.

The prosecutor says in an interview with a detective, Prince said she locked the child in the closet because she was eating too much food. She said she knew the child was malnourished but did not seek medical help because she knew she would get in trouble.

Her lawyer says Prince's mental condition will be part of his argument for a lower sentence.

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