Preliminary hearing held for 4 people
charged with child abuse in
Stone County, Missouri
STONE COUNTY, MO – A preliminary hearing was held on Tuesday for four people charged for child abuse back in November.
Dessa A. Barton, 26, W. Dalton McLendon, 26, Kathreine Kost, 56, and Richard A Hilliker, 52, pleaded not guilty to their charges. Each face charges of endangering the welfare of a child and child abuse.
In a hearing that lasted more than three hours, the Stone County Prosecuting Attorney presented various pieces of evidence and called multiple witnesses to the stand. Among witnesses were Stone County detectives as well as the ex-boyfriend of Dessa Barton, who is the mother of the child.
Detectives said the then 4-year-old boy suffered from extreme malnutrition. They also said the young boy spent extended periods of time in a wooden crate constructed of pallets.
On Tuesday Stone County Prosecutor Matt Selby showed a number of photos taken during a search of the home.
Photos showed the crate itself, a make-shift door for the crate as well as blankets and children’s clothing. During testimonies, detectives said Dalton McLendon previously denied using the crate for the child, instead they say McLendon said it was used for a dog.
Detectives who gave testimony also said McLendon admitted to spanking the boy and sometimes using a belt on him. Among the photos shared by Selby was a photo of a belt, which detectives described as “the belt.”
“[McLendon said the child] had this problem where he would pee himself,” Stone County detective Matthew Maggard said.
Maggard also said McLendon told him he had issues trying to get the boy to play with him.
“Dalton said he tried to play with [the child] but he never wanted to play with him because he seemed like a standoff child,” Maggard said in his testimony.
Selby also presented phone records between a few of the four. All four were present during the hearing, but a few of the defense attorneys said some of the evidence did not pertain to each individuals case.
Detectives had also testified that medical personnel told them the child’s injuries were consistent with physical abuse. One detective said the boy was quite skinny when they saw him.
One investigator who gave testimony said Barton told detectives in an interview that she did not know how her son had hurt himself. They said Barton said she believed her son was causing self harm. Detectives said she told them she thought her son need more psychiatric help than medical attention.
Investigators initially received a 911 call on November 6 about the child being unresponsive in a Billings home. Emergency crews transported the him to a Springfield hospital, then airlifted him to a Kansas City hospital.