A Kentucky man charged with the murder of a 5-year-old boy allegedly admitted to police that he’d killed the child after tossing the boy’s mother off an 80-foot cliff, PEOPLE confirms.
Lonnie Belt, 41, allegedly told authorities he “struck the boy in the head multiple times with a metal object,” according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by PEOPLE.
James Spoonamore was found dead Monday morning — six-tenths of a mile from where his mother was discovered badly injured on Saturday in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky.
“It is pretty bad,” Kentucky State Police Sgt. Joshua Lawson tells PEOPLE. “He was found a little more than a half-mile down a road and about 180 feet from the road in the woods.”
Belt, who is being held without bond in Kentucky’s Jackson County Detention Center, was charged with James’ murder on Monday. He had previously been charged with two counts of kidnapping, assault and evidence tampering, in connection with the abduction of James and his mom, to which Belt pleaded not guilty.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday. Belt’s attorney could not be reached for comment.
According to the search warrant affidavit, James’ mom told police that Belt showed up at her home on Sept. 8 and told her that “she needed to go with him” to his house because her husband was “passed out and she needed to take him home.”
She said she and her son got into Belt’s car and went with him to his home. Once there, she alleged, Belt struck her in the back of the head with a metal object and tied her up. Belt allegedly put a hood over her head and put her and James back into his vehicle.
He later stopped the vehicle, pulled her from the car and threw her over the cliff, the warrant affidavit alleges.
She “stated her son, James, was still inside of Lonnie Belts vehicle when he threw her off the cliff,” according to the affidavit.
She was found the following morning by hikers around 10:45 a.m. and 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.
“I just can’t understand why this would happen,” she said.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Batson told the paper her sister “just stays to herself. She volunteers at the library and was looking for work. She is quiet and doesn’t put her business out there — specially James. He just turned 5 last month and just started school. He’s a lovable kid all around. You can tell he’s mama’s boy.”
Police located Belt “hiding inside his residence” at 1:39 p.m. Saturday, the affidavit states. Detectives allegedly found a bloodstain on the floor. He was taken into custody at 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
According to the search warrant, Belt allegedly told police he’d gotten into an argument about money and hit James’ mom in the head before tying her up and taking her and James to the cliff, “where he assaulted her again,” the affidavit states.
The affidavit further alleges that, according to Belt’s statements to police, James was taken to a separate area, beaten in the head “multiple times with a metal object” and then left.
Belt also admitted to painting over the blood of James’ mom in his residence, the affidavit claims.
• PEOPLE’s special edition True Crime Stories: 35 Real Cases That Inspired the Show Law & Order is on sale now.
Multiple agencies, including K9 units, helicopters and aircraft from the Kentucky National Guard, riders on horseback and dozens of volunteers assisted in the search for the missing boy.
“There were a couple of hundred volunteers and emergency workers involved in the search,” says Sgt. Lawson. “It was a non-stop search until he was located.”
James was found around 9:30 a.m. Monday and taken to the medical examiner’s office in Frankfort. Autopsy results are pending.
“It has been hard on everybody,” Lawson says about the case. “No one wants to be a part of that.”