Four arrested over severely malnourished 4-year-old believed kept in crate for extended periods

Dessa Barton, 26; William McLendon, 26; Katherine Kost, 53; and Richard Hilliker, 52 of Billings, Missouri. [Image credit: Stone County Sheriff's Office]


On November 6 officers with the Stone County Sheriff's Office responded to a residence in Billings, Missouri for a call of an unresponsive 4-year-old.  The child they found now only showed injuries consistent with physical abuse, but also was severely malnourished.


He was taken by ambulance to Cox South Hospital before being airlifted to Kansas City in critical condition.


Over the intervening month, officers have continued to investigate the matter, returning to the residence on November 25 to recover "a wooden crate constructed of pallets."  Detectives believe that the crate was used to cage the child for extended periods of time.


In speaking with investigators the boy's mother, 26-year-old Dessa Barton is said to have stated that the crate was used to confine him because he would harm himself. As examples, she is alleged to have said that he would claw his arms and bang his head.


She is further said to have claimed her attempts to obtain Medicaid in order to seek treatment for the child were delayed due to Covid.


A nurse familiar with the child's injuries though, told investigators that it was not possible that some of the injuries were self-inflicted due to their location.


Barton, her boyfriend, 26-year-old William McLendon, his mother, 53-year-old Katherine Kost, and her boyfriend, 52-year-old Richard Hilliker were all arrested for child abuse.


Barton was charged with engendering the welfare of a child and abuse or neglect of a child.  There is a note that she may be in violation of parole, and her bond was set at $50,000.


Kost is showing two charges of endangering the welfare of a child and an additional charge of abuse or neglect of a child.  Her bond has been set at $50,000.


McLendon was charged with endangering the welfare of a child.  There is a note that he could be in violation of parole, and his bond was set at $50,000.


Hilliker was arrested on a single charge of abuse or neglect of a child.  His bond was also set at $50,000.


At the time of this writing, all four remain in custody at the Stone County Jail. Their next court date is not known.



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