An Albany woman who handcuffed an 11-year-old girl to a cage and starved her for over a year pleaded guilty to two counts of kidnapping and two counts of child endangerment on Friday morning.
Jennifer Reed, who has a master’s degree in social work, was first charged in July of 2018, with 42 charges filed against her: 10 kidnapping charges, nine domestic assault charges, six armed criminal action charges, 16 endangering the welfare of a child charges and one charge for child abuse or neglect.
According to court documents, an investigation by law enforcement revealed that an 11-year-old girl was in the guardianship of Reed and Raymond Burks between July 2017 and July 2018 when they allegedly handcuffed her hands and feet to a cage, withheld food from her, beat her and used a stun gun on her.
Reed’s boyfriend, Lonnie Johnson, also was believed by investigators to have abused the young girl and to have attempted to remove several pairs of handcuffs and stun guns from the house that were later used as evidence.
In November of 2018, a special prosecutor, David Baird, was brought onto the case after the original Gentry County prosecutor, Jessica Jones, was disqualified from the case. In 2013, Reed and Burks had attempted to adopt the 11-year-old girl, and Jones had been appointed to investigate the home.
Jones did not give a positive recommendation, according to court documents, expressing concern with Reed’s relationships. The defense was concerned that Jones could potentially be a witness in the case and believed she should not be involved in the case.
For nearly a year, the case moved trial dates several times. Reed was scheduled to stand trial on Sept. 30 before a Gentry County jury, but that trial was canceled in place of a plea hearing that occurred on Friday morning.
Amended charges on the case accused Reed of two counts of first-degree kidnapping and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. On Friday morning, Reed pleaded guilty to these charges, hesitating only when asked if she had handcuffed the child with the intention of terrorizing her.
Reed also told the judge that Johnson and Burks were involved with her in withholding food from the girl and handcuffing her to a cage as punishment.
A plea agreement between prosecutor Baird and public defender James Rynard specified that Reed serve 15 years concurrently for her two charges for kidnapping and seven years concurrently for her two charges of endangering the welfare of a child for a total of 22 years. Reed would have to serve at least 85 percent or 12.75 years of her 15-year sentence before being eligible for parole.
The official sentencing is set for Oct. 10 at 8:30 am in Gentry County, where victims are expected to speak about the abuse.
The two men also believed to be involved, Johnson and Burks, are set to appear on Oct. 10 in Gentry County. Johnson currently is facing a charge of tampering with evidence and two charges of endangering the welfare of a child, while Burks is facing 42 charges matching Reed’s original charges.
The plea hearing was held at the Nodaway County Courthouse on Friday morning for the convenience of both attorneys and the judge.