KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) - A Missouri woman fought with court officers and cursed the judge after he sentenced her to 34 years in prison for starving and imprisoning her 10-year-old daughter inside a urine-soaked closet.
Jackson County Judge J. Dale Youngs on Friday sentenced Jacole Prince, 32, of Kansas City, to 34 years for child abuse, first-degree assault and child endangerment. With good time, she could be out in about 14 years. A jury convicted her in November after deliberating for three hours.
Prince expressed remorse at her sentencing hearing and apologized to her children for "everything they had to go through in my household."
But when Judge Youngs imposed the sentence, Prince stood up and tried to leave the courtroom. Officers grappled with the agitated woman, cuffing her and pushing her toward the exit.
"Shut up, motherfucker!" Prince yelled at the judge as deputies shoved her toward the exit. She continued to scream and curse down the hall until officers wrestled her into the elevator.
The display capped a trial in which prosecutors said Prince had no remorse while her defense team claimed a personality disorder caused her to think she was protecting her daughter by locking her in the closet.
Acting on an anonymous tip in 2012, police found Prince's 10-year-old daughter, known as L.P., confined in a closet in Prince's apartment behind a door barricaded with a playpen and secured with two doorknobs tied together with shoelaces.
The child, bruised, scarred and surrounded by her own waste, weighed only 32 pounds, half the normal weight of a girl her age. She wore a toddler-size T-shirt.
"I don't want to stay in the closet no more," L.P. told a detective in an interview.
L.P. had been confined for years, banned from outside play with her sisters. She hadn't been enrolled in school for five years.
The child, now 14, testified at trial about her life in the closet with no light or toys and being forced to knock on the door if she had to go to the bathroom. "Sometimes I couldn't hold it," she said.
Her younger sister, M.P., testified that L.P. spent every day in the closet. She said her mother ordered her to keep quiet about it.
Neighbors had assumed that only Prince, two younger daughters and her boyfriend, Marcus Benson, lived in the apartment.
Prince was charged with child abuse, endangering the welfare of a child and assault. Benson, 35, who claimed he had no idea the girl was in the closet, was charged with failure to protect and failure to provide proper nourishment.
Benson was sentenced to five years probation, which he violated six months later. A judge sent him to jail.
After her rescue, L.P was hospitalized for eight days, released and quickly readmitted for a condition known as refeeding syndrome, in which the body of a person starved for a long time cannot process normal amounts of food after she starts to eat again.
She was placed with a foster family and a year later underwent heart transplant surgery. During the penalty phase of the trial, L.P.'s foster mother testified that the girl was afraid to sleep without her flashlight because she had been kept in the dark for so long.
L.P.'s nightmare began years before her rescue.
Prince took 4-year-old L.P. to a hospital in 2005, claiming the child had ingested Pine-Sol, according to an investigation by The Kansas City Star. Later, L.P. was diagnosed with failure to thrive because she was severely underweight.
In 2006, both L.P. and a younger sister were removed from Prince's custody and placed in the custody of Benson. The children were returned in 2007 to Prince's care, and the family moved into the public housing complex where L.P. was found in the closet.
Prosecutor Trisha Lacey said Prince deserved the full 34-year sentence recommended by the jury. Prince's defense team said she had mental health issues that rendered her unable to parent.
A psychologist testified that Prince suffered from recurrent major depression and schizotypical personality disorder, which creates interpersonal and perception difficulties. Prince grew up with a violent stepfather and a mother who threw her out of the home while she was a teen.
Prince's unusual beliefs included a conviction that she had to protect L.P. from school and that withholding food was a valid potty training method. She also believed that small-framed bodies were superior to larger frames.
In a disjointed 42-page letter that Prince wrote to the Kansas City Star in 2014, she denied abusing L.P., quoted Bible verses, talked about her "adorable girls" and said that she told her attorney she would donate her own heart for L.P.'s transplant surgery.
"He gave me a look as if I was crazy. He said he would look into it but I probably would need to get (evaluated) to see if I'm in the right state of mind," Prince wrote. In the letter, she blamed her daughter's malnourishment on L.P. herself, claiming the child wouldn't eat much at one time.
Despite Prince's obvious mental issues, the jury recommended a 34-year sentence.
L.P. was not present during the sentencing Friday. She had her say during the sentencing phase in November, when she read from a letter she wrote to her mother.
"I'm glad that you have gone away for the rest of my life. I did not like how you treated me as a kid, how you hit me, whooped me, and did not feed me day and night.
"Now you can't hurt me anymore because you are in jail. I hope you can be a better person when you are in jail . ... Don't worry about me. I am in a better place and a better home."
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