State

Kidnapped 5-year-old found dead, close to where mother was discovered

James Spoonamore, 5, was kidnapped yesterday after his mother was thrown off a cliff in Eastern Kentucky. A 41-year-old man has been arrested, but the boy’s whereabouts are unknown.
James Spoonamore, 5, was kidnapped yesterday after his mother was thrown off a cliff in Eastern Kentucky. A 41-year-old man has been arrested, but the boy’s whereabouts are unknown. Sand Gap Fire Department

Missing 5-year-old boy James Spoonamore was found dead Monday morning, Kentucky State Police announced Monday afternoon. New story HERE.

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A 5-year-old boy who just started school in Jackson County has been missing three days, since his mother was thrown off a 100-foot cliff and suffered multiple broken bones, a relative said.

A 41-year-old man is charged in connection with the boy’s disappearance. Lonnie Belt told police he got into an argument with Jessica Durham about money, hit her in the head, tied her up, took her to a cliff and beat her again, according to court records. Belt acknowledged the child was with his mother when he took Durham to the cliff.

Kentucky State Police is holding a press conference on the investigation at 2 p.m. Monday at its Frankfort headquarters.

Belt isn’t telling where James is, James’ aunt Mary Batson said.

“I just can’t understand why this would happen,” Batson said. “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. Especially James. He just turned 5 last month and just started school. He’s a lovable kid all around. You can tell he’s momma’s boy.”

James and Durham were kidnapped from their home while mother and son were getting ready to go to the doctor, Batson said. Durham put her son in the child seat in the back seat of their vehicle, Batson said.

Belt arrived at the house and asked for help waking up Durham’s husband, David, who was in the house, Batson said.

“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 spoke with Durham on Sunday. “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.”

Belt, blindfolded Durham, tied her hands and put her in the car, with James in the back seat, Batson said. The suspect drove, and when he stopped, her took off Durham’s blindfold and untied her hands.

Durham tried to fight back, but Belt shoved her down a 100 foot and drove off with James, Batson said.

Jessica was found the next day, Saturday, and was taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. Batson said her sister has a broken ankle, a shattered pelvic bone, internal bleeding and head trauma. Durham is on oxygen but will live, Batson said.

Belt was arrested Saturday night and is being held in the Jackson County jail. He is charged with kidnapping James and Durham, assault and tampering with evidence, according to jail records. He admitted to painting over Jessica’s blood in her residence, court records said.

He was arraigned Monday and will have a preliminary hearing on Monday, Sept. 18, the Jackson County circuit court said.

Wolfe County Search and Rescue, which often responds to rescues in the rugged Red River Gorge and other areas, said it was helping other search-and-rescue teams looking for James.

State police did not immediately release additional details.

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