by: Chris Six, Ozarks First
One of four suspects involved in a child abuse investigation was sentenced Monday for his role in the case.
Court documents say 52-year-old Richard A. Hilliker entered a plea agreement and was sentenced to five years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for one count of child endangerment. Hilliker’s sentence for a second count of child endangerment was suspended by the judge. His charge of abuse or neglect of a child was dismissed.
According to previous reports, Stone County deputies were sent to a home in November for a four-year-old boy found unresponsive. The boy was taken to Kansas City and was in stable condition as of December 4.
Sheriff Rader says the medical staff told the Sheriff’s Office that the boy suffered various injuries consistent with physical abuse. The primary concern, however, was extreme malnutrition.
Stone County detectives went back to the home on November 25 and found a wooden crate made of pallets. Sheriff Rader says detectives believe the crate was used to cage the boy for extended periods.
Probable Cause statements say those responsible for the boy were Dessa Barton and her boyfriend, William McLendon. In an interview with a Stone County detective, Barton said the boy had been self-harming by clawing at his arms and nose and banging his head into things, causing injuries.
The detective asked Barton if she had taken the boy to get medical attention. She said no. Barton told the detective she had been trying to get on Medicaid so she could take him, but things got delayed due to COVID-19.
Court documents say another detective went to Cox South in Springfield to talk with medical staff about the injuries. A forensic nurse told the detective that the injuries the boy had were consistent with physical abuse. The detective was advised that some of the injuries were found on parts of the boy’s body that would not be possible for self-harming.
The boy had been in the care of Barton since January 2020. Barton and McLendon lived in the home in Billings with McLendon’s mother, Katherine Kost.
Court documents say on November 11, the detective was reviewing messages between Kost and her boyfriend, Richard Hilliker, and noticed several text messages indicating Hilliker had been living or spending a lot of time at the home since September 2020. Detectives say some of the messages indicate Hilliker had direct contact with the boy from September through November, including the day the boy was taken to the hospital.
Barton will have a court appearance on April 6, and the other two have filed for a change of judge.