Man charged with abandoning corpse in Mo. lake

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The girlfriend of a southwest Missouri man charged with abandoning a corpse in connection with the death of a 15-year-old girl saw him wrap the body and put it into the trunk of his car, according to court documents.

James Balbirnie’s on-again, off-again girlfriend told a Benton County deputy that Balbirnie was at her home when he put the body of Khighla Parks into his trunk early Sept. 21, according to a probable cause statement. The woman, whose name was not in court documents, told investigators Balbirnie said he was heading to Warsaw with the body. Nine days later, fishermen found the Willard girl’s body, with weights attached, in Truman Lake near Warsaw.

Balbirnie, who has a long criminal history, was arrested Monday evening in southern Dallas County after a 45-minute chase that started in Greene County. The 47-year-old Springfield man initially was held in Greene County before being transferred Wednesday afternoon to Benton County, where the abandoning charge was filed Sunday. The charged didn’t show up in electronic court records until late Tuesday.

Dallas County Sheriff Mick Rackley said in a news release that Khighla voluntarily left her home in Willard on Sept. 20 and was later observed with several people at a home in Buffalo, about 45 miles away in Dallas County.

Rackley said multiple charges are pending in Greene and Dallas counties. Dallas County prosecutor Barbara Viets said Wednesday the investigation was ongoing and it was unclear what Balbirnie might be charged with in her county.

Online court documents don’t indicate whether he has obtained an attorney, and a phone message left with the Greene County prosecutor’s office seeking that information wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday.

Though authorities haven’t revealed whether Balbirnie knew the girl, the two were “friends” on Facebook.

Because he previous criminal convictions, Balbirnie could face an extended prison term under state law if convicted of the felony abandoning charge, according to the criminal complaint filed in Benton County.

Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Cline said Balbirnie was released from prison on parole in August, one month before Khighla disappeared, after serving about 15 months for possessing marijuana in Christian County.

The pot charge was one of seven convictions for the man in 2010, Cline said. The other six were in Greene County, where a judge suspended his sentences and put him on probation, even though probation had been revoked in several previous cases, all the way back to the early 1990s. The Greene County charges included manufacturing drugs and resisting arrest with intent to cause physical harm or death by fleeing.

Cline said Balbirnie first was sentenced in 1991 for forgery and put on probation, but that was revoked and he spent years in and out of prison before completing his sentence in 1998.

He was later convicted in Dallas County for unlawful use of a weapon, and ended up serving time in prison after violating both his probation and his parole in that case.

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