The body of a 5-year-old boy was found on Monday, Sept. 11, in Jackson County, Kentucky, near where his mother was found beaten and thrown from a cliff two days earlier.
The boy, identified as James Spoonamore, 5, was found about 180 feet from Sparks Ridge Road and about half a mile from where his mother was thrown down an 80-foot embankment.
Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders told reporters that on Saturday, Sept. 9, they received a call from some hikers who had found Jessica Durham, 31.
She was airlifted to University of Kentucky Medical Center with serious, nonlife-threatening injuries, state police said. However the family told local TV station WKYT that she is in critical condition.
Despite her trauma, she was able to describe to troopers how she and her son were assaulted and kidnapped, and by whom.
She told them she last saw her son with their kidnapper, Lonnie Belt, 41, as he allegedly forced her over the cliff. Local media Lex 18 described Belt as a family friend.
Based on her description and the location she provided, troopers were able to locate him at his home in McKee, Kentucky, where they arrested him.
According to court records, Belt told police he got into an argument with Durham over money, hit her in the head, tied her up, then took her to a cliff and beat her again, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
Durham and James were getting ready to go to the doctor and she had just put James in his child seat in the back seat of their vehicle, when Belt arrived and asked for help waking up Durham’s husband, David, who was in the house, Duham’s sister Mary Batson told the Herald-Leader.
“She walked in there and when she walked in, the guy hit her in the back of the head and she fell to the ground,” said Batson, who has spoken to Durham. “He got mad because she didn’t get knocked out with the first hit so he hit her two or three more times. She would never knock out.”
He blindfolded her, tied up her arms and legs and put her in the car where James was waiting, according to Batson, who spoke with Durham after it happened.
Batson said Durham tried to fight back but Belt pushed her over the cliff before she could get free. He then drove off with James.
“I just can’t understand why this would happen,” Batson told the Herald-Leader. “Jesse 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.”
A search team of over 200 looked for James on foot and horseback, in helicopters and with K-9s.
The team worked throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, but was forced to stop at at night for safety reasons, Sanders said.
About 9:30 a.m. on Monday, police said they found James’s body about 6/10 of a mile from where Durham was found by hikers two days before. He was about 180 feet from the road.
“We were given reason to believe that he would be found in that location,” Sanders said, without giving any more details.
His body was taken to Frankfort, Kentucky, where an autopsy is being performed.
Sanders said that the mother was notified of the discovery.
Belt has been charged with assault, kidnapping an adult, kidnapping a minor, and tampering with physical evidence.
He was charged with evidence tampering because police said he painted over Durham’s blood at his residence, WKYT reported.
Subsequent charges will be filed after police confer with the commonwealth’s attorney, Sanders said.