A Kentucky man allegedly killed five-year-old James Spoonamore and tossed his mother off an 80-foot cliff because of a dispute over $200, police say.
Kentucky State Police detective Charles Brandenburg testified during a preliminary hearing Monday in Jackson County District Court in McKee that suspect Lonnie Belt, 41, was upset that James’ stepfather allegedly stole $200 from him, according to court testimony reported on by WKYT.
During the hearing, Brandenburg alleged that Belt’s scheme was to hold James and his 29-year-old mother Jessica Durham hostage at his house until he got paid.
Belt allegedly lured the boy and his mother to his house on Sept. 8 by telling Durham that her husband was passed out and she needed to take him home.
“So she went to the end of the hallway, where David was supposed to be, the bedroom,” Brandenburg testified, according to WKYT. “She went into the bedroom. David was not there. She was struck in the back of the head with a metal object by Lonnie.”
Authorities allege that after Belt struck Durham in the back of the head, he allegedly tied her up and put her and James back into his vehicle.
“She went on to say, when she got back in the vehicle she was blindfolded and tied up, and her head was bleeding,” Brandenburg said, WKYT reports. “Her small child, her 5-year-old son was in the back seat. She could hear him say, ‘Mommy you’re bleeding, Mommy you need a doctor.'”
He later stopped the vehicle and, authorities allege, pulled Durham from the car and kicked her over a cliff in Daniel Boone National Forest. Hikers found her badly injured but alive the following morning around 10:45 a.m. and she was taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.
Her sister, Mary Batson, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that she had a shattered pelvic bone, a broken ankle, internal bleeding and head trauma.
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James was found dead two days later on September 11, six-tenths of a mile from where Durham was discovered badly injured.
Belt allegedly told police he killed the boy because he was a witness to the attack on his mother.
“He finally admitted to taking James, putting him in a car and driving him to a separate location, in the same wooded area, across Sparks Ridge Road, where he hit James in the back of the head with a metal object multiple times,” Brandenburg testified.
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Kentucky State Police Sgt. Joshua Lawson told PEOPLE that James was “found a little more than a half-mile down a road and about 180 feet from the road in the woods.”
Belt was arrested and charged with murder, two counts of kidnapping, assault and evidence tampering. He has not entered a plea.
He is being held in Jackson County Detention Center on no bond. Belt’s public defender could not be reached for comment.
The case has been sent to a grand jury.