Child homicides taking toll in Kansas City metropolitan area
Kansas City, Mo. At least 16 children in the Kansas City metropolitan area have been killed in homicides in the past 12 months, leaving families with a sense of helplessness and prosecutors frustrated by the cases that remain unsolved.
Statistically, this year's numbers aren't much worse than most in the past decade, police say. But it's the way many of the children have died that has sparked revulsion.
Shootings have killed many of the children in their homes, on their neighborhood streets or walking behind their parents, The Kansas City Star reported. Victims have ranged from 6 weeks to 16 years old.
The common denominator in most of the deaths is parents who are either perpetrators of the violence or the target of gunfire that kills their children instead, police said.
"It's just sad," said Sgt. Kari Thompson, a Kansas City police spokeswoman. "This is family violence. There are not armed, unknown perpetrators coming after children."
Five children were killed in drive-by shootings, five died from extreme child abuse and at least two got caught in the crossfire of domestic violence, prosecutors said.
Five of the 16 cases remain unsolved.
One of those cases is that of 10-year-old Machole Stewart, who was fatally shot in the head while watching television in her Kansas City, Kansas, home.
A drive-by shooter sprayed bullets at her house five days before Halloween.
"Machole was the life of the party," said her grandmother, Krystal Stewart. "Love your grandkids when you've got them because you don't ever want to walk in my shoes."
Stewart believes she knows who is responsible for Machole's death. The shooters meant to target the girl's older brother, and the house has been shot up three more times since Machole was killed, she said.
Rosilyn Temple, founder of the Kansas City chapter of Mothers in Charge, believes a dark cloud has hung over the city since 3-year-old Damiah White and her mother, Myeisha Turner, were killed two years ago at their home in Kansas City, Missouri.
Mothers in Charge, an anti-violence group, canvassed the neighborhood with police but no witnesses came forward and the case remains unsolved.
"When we allowed that to be OK, we opened up the door to let (more of) it happen," Temple said. "I said to my mother then: We are going to have more babies killed. And there have been more."
That case also weighs heavily on the mind of Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who keeps a photo of Damiah in her office.
Whoever killed Damiah — who would have turned 4 a few weeks later — and her mother left a baby less than a year old to wander alone for hours among the bodies.
"That one was hard for us," Baker said. "I think there's a greater community injury when the case is unsolved."