HARRISONVILLE, Mo. – A man suspected of fathering four children with his teenage daughter faces charges of killing at least one after human remains were discovered at the rural home where the family once lived, authorities said Friday.
The 47-year-old man is charged with second-degree murder, endangering the welfare of a child, statutory rape, two counts of incest and two counts of abandoning a corpse.
Three of the children are dead. The abuse of his now 19-year-old daughter allegedly began when she was 13, Cass County prosecutor Teresa Hensley said.
The Associated Press is withholding the suspect's name to protect the identity of the teen daughter, an alleged sexual assault victim.
"For six years (the daughter) was under his control," Hensley said.
At an arraignment later Friday, the man said he did not yet have an attorney and indicated to a judge that he didn't understand the murder charge. Another hearing was scheduled for Jan. 29.
According to court documents, the teenage daughter told police he had fathered all four children, while the father told detectives he was certain two of them were his. Both said all of the children were delivered at home by the father and his wife. The wife is charged with endangering the welfare of a child for not reporting the alleged sexual abuse. She is free on $10,000 bond.
The father was arrested Wednesday night in Daviess County after two sealed coolers with the remains of two infants were found. The third child is believed to have died in Oklahoma. The surviving child, a 3-year-old boy, is in state custody.
After receiving a tip from the sister of the 19-year-old, Cass County authorities in October used cadaver dogs to search the rural property. Nothing was found during that search, but on Jan. 1 new owners found the sealed coolers and contacted police.
The father is charged in the death of a boy born Nov. 17, 2006, and believed to have died of pneumonia on Feb. 28, 2007. Authorities believe the baby became ill and that the suspect and his daughter, who has not been charged, never sought medical attention.
Investigators are still looking into the death of the other infant. The daughter told investigators her father assisted with the birth in April and that he told her the child was stillborn, according to a probable cause statement.
Theresa Sims, a relative who attended Friday's arraignment for the father, said the extended family didn't know about the alleged sexual abuse or the 19-year-old's children until October, when one of the teenager's sister contacted police.
"We never knew anything, never seen any babies. When we first heard about it, it was just hard to believe," Sims said.
The 18-year-old sister who contacted authorities and another sister told KMBC-TV in Kansas City that the family lived in seclusion behind locked gates and that the children were told never to report what was happening.
"Our dad told us if we'd say something, we're dead. We'd get in trouble," the 18-year-old said.
According to court documents, the wife told police she was jealous of the close relationship between her husband and her daughter but desperately wanted a son — even one as a result of incest.
Calls to multiple phone numbers listed under the wife's name were not answered Friday. It wasn't immediately clear whether she has an attorney.
The man's mother said he and the teen had lived in a trailer beside the house where she lived north of Harrisonville, and she wasn't allowed to go back there.
"I didn't know there was a baby," she told The Kansas City Star. "He's my son and I love him, but I can't go along with this."