STONE COUNTY, Mo. — Four people are facing charges after a young boy was found unresponsive and in critical condition at the beginning of November due to various injuries and extreme malnutrition in southwest Missouri.
According to court documents, these suspects are charged with two counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child and abuse or neglect of a child.
- Dessa A. Barton, 26-years-old
- William McLendon, 26-years-old
- Katherine Kost, 53-years-old
- Richard A. Hilliker, 52-years-old
According to a news release shared on Friday, Stone County dispatch received a call on November 6 about a 4-year-old boy found unresponsive. Medical crews went to a home in Billings to pick up the boy and take him to Cox South in Springfield. The boy was then air-lifted to Kansas City in critical condition. Sheriff Rader told FOX4 sister station KOLR10 that the boy’s condition stabilized in Kansas City.
Sheriff Rader says the medical staff told his office that the boy suffered various injuries consistent with physical abuse. The primary concern, however, was extreme malnutrition.
Stone County detectives went to the home to investigate on November 25 and found a wooden crate made of pallets. Sheriff Rader says detectives believe the crate was used to cage the boy for extended periods of time.
Probable cause statements say the boy’s mother is Dessa Barton, and her boyfriend is William McLendon. In an interview with a Stone County detective, Barton said the boy had been self-harming by clawing at his arms and nose and banging his head into things, causing injuries.
The detective asked Barton if she had taken her son to get medical attention. She said she hadn’t. Barton told the detective she had been trying to get on Medicaid so she could take him, but things got delayed due to COVID-19.
Court documents say another detective went to Cox South in Springfield to talk with medical staff about the injuries. A forensic nurse told the detective that the injuries the boy had were consistent with physical abuse. The detective was advised that some of the injuries were found on parts of the boy’s body that would not be possible form self-harming.
The boy had been in the care of Barton since January 2020. Barton and McLendon lived in the home in Billings with McLendon’s mother, Katherine Kost.
Court documents say on November 11, the detective was reviewing messages between Kost and her boyfriend, Richard Hilliker, and noticed several text messages indicating Hilliker had been living or spending a lot of time at the home since September 2020. Detectives say some of the messages indicate Hilliker had direct contact with the boy from September through November, including the day the boy was taken to the hospital.
All four have preliminary hearings on December, 22 at 1 p.m. All four are in the Stone County jail, being held on $50,000 bonds.
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