Police are investigating possible child abuse after a malnourished child was found in a closet Friday.
Police said the little girl found locked in a closet weighed a third of what she should have for her age, and the closet she was found in was rigged so that it could only be opened from the outside.
An anonymous call to the child abuse hotline sent police to the apartment on Highland Avenue between 12th and 14th streets Friday morning. Neighbors, many of them children themselves, watched as police carried the frighteningly thin child out.
"All I saw were police outside and I looked out the window and I saw a little girl. I thought it was a girl who'd run away or something, but one of my auntie's friends came and told us they found the girl in the closet. She looked like they hadn't really been feeding her. She was very skinny and had on a big, white dingy shirt that was turning brown," neighbor Kelisha Parrish said. "She looked small like a little small 5-year-old, 6-year-old little kid."
The girl was actually 10 years old and was locked in a closet with no one else home at the time. Capt. Steve Young, a spokesman for the Kansas City Police Department, said it was clear the girl had been locked inside the closet for an extended time.
"It smelled and there was evidence that she had been spending a lot of time in there," Young said.
He added that it was clear she wasn't given access to a bathroom.
Police found the girl's mother and two other children elsewhere and the mom's boyfriend, who is believed to also live at the apartment, at a third location.
Neighbors said they lived next door for years and never knew the little girl existed.
"We didn't know she had a third child. She always said she had two. And here comes the surprise this morning - there's a 10-year-old in the closet," Kimberly Kelley said. "How can you actually go on for three or four years pretending like you only had two children?"
Equally clueless about the oldest girl's existence was Dorothy Burrell, who tried reaching out to the mother, who was in a relationship Burrell called controlling.
"I never seen anything like she had another child, but you could see the abuse that she was going through with her kids' father," Burrell said.
Friday night, police said they didn't know at the time if either the mother or her boyfriend had any documented history with child abuse or domestic violence. Both are both in jail, on a 24-hour investigative hold pending criminal charges.
The 10-year-old girl is in hospital and expected to survive. Her sisters are in protective custody.
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