Mom's boyfriend arrested in Mo. closet abuse case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The boyfriend of a woman whose 10-year-old malnourished daughter was found last month locked in a closet in Kansas City appeared in court Friday, one day after he was found hiding in an attic.

Prosecutors requested a $100,000 bond for Marcus R. Benson, who is charged with two counts of child endangerment. The charges were filed July 11, but Benson wasn't arrested until Thursday night after police received a tip that he was at a home in the Kansas City suburb of Independence, said Police Sgt. Stacey Graves.

Police found Benson hiding in the attic, even though a woman said he wasn't there. The woman was arrested for interfering with police, Graves said.

Online court records don't list a lawyer for Benson. He hasn't spoken publicly about the case or the charges, but was interviewed by police after the girl was discovered.

On June 22, authorities responding to a child abuse hotline call found the 32-pound girl barricaded inside a closet that reeked of urine. Neighbors said the girl's 2- and 8-year-old half-sisters — Benson's daughters — were well cared for, but that neighbors didn't know about the 10-year-old.

The 10-year-old was taken to a hospital but later was released and placed in protective custody along with her two younger sisters, said Mike Mansur, a spokesman for the Jackson County prosecutor's office.

According to the probable cause statement filed in the mother's case and later in Benson's, the mother told police she didn't let the girl leave the house because the child is malnourished and she would "get in trouble if someone saw her." The Associated Press isn't naming the mother to protect the 10-year-old identity.

The mother was charged June 23 with assault, child abuse and child endangerment. She has pleaded not guilty and waived the right to a preliminary hearing. Her attorney, public defender Curt Winegarner, has declined to comment.

During an interview with police before he was released, Benson said he didn't live in the apartment. He said he often visited to see the two younger girls, but hadn't seen their half-sister in about a year, according to the probable cause statement.

Benson said that when he asked the mother about the 10-year-old, she told him she was with her aunt or in her room because she was in trouble. He said he never knew the mother put the girl in the closet or "he would have done something about it," the probable cause statement said.

But witnesses told authorities that Benson did live with the mother and had seen the girl, according to probable cause statements filed in Benson's case.

One of those witnesses who said the couple lived together also told investigators she was worried about the 10-year-old. She said she hadn't seen the girl since Thanksgiving and recalled her eating "a lot" that day. When the woman asked about it, the mother told her the girl was "just greedy," the probable cause statement said.

The 10-year-old told police that Benson lived with her during a July 3 interview. According to the probable cause statement, the girl said that within the last year, Benson lifted up her shirt so he could see her stomach and slapped her in the face because she snuck a drink from her 8-year-old sister's cup, the probable cause statement said.

The girl said her mother and Benson argue about putting her in the closet and Benson didn't want her there. However, the 10-year-old also recalled that once Benson told her mother to put her in the closet, but her mother put her behind the couch instead, the probable cause statement said.

The girl's 8-year-old sister said she never told anyone that she has another sister and that her mother told her she would get in trouble if she did. The girl also said Benson doesn't lock her older sister in the closet, according to the probable cause statement.

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