Police charged Lonnie Belt with the murder of five-year-old James Spoonamore
A Kentucky man charged with the murder of a five-year-old boy who watched helplessly as his mother was beaten, bound and pushed off a cliff over the weekend, did it for $200.
Lonnie Belt, 41, thought James Spoonamore’s stepfather had stolen money from him, according to Kentucky State Police detective Charles Brandenburg who testified, Monday, during a preliminary hearing in Jackson County District Court.
David Durham, the stepfather, has denied the accusation.
Police arrested Belt and charged him with the murder of the boy, five. Belt also faces charges of assault, kidnapping and tampering with evidence. James’ mother, Jessica Durham, is recovering at a Lexington hospital.
According to Bradenburg’s testimony, Belt said he planned to hold the two hostage until the money was paid.
The mother survived and was found by two hikers who alerted police, prompting a two-day search that ended earlier Monday when the boy’s body was discovered near where his mother was left for dead.
Belt is also charged with kidnapping and tampering with evidence. He is accused of assaulting Spoonamore’s mother Jessica Durham who was found at the bottom of an 80-foot cliff by two hikers Saturday
Detectives said that they do not know why Belt beat the 28-year-old on the back of the head with a metal object. He would then take her to a different location and severely beat her before taking her into the woods and kicking Durham off a cliff.
Brandenburg added that Belt said he killed the boy for being a witness.
It’s unclear if Belt has an attorney. Sanders said Durham and Belt are acquaintances and were not romantically involved.
Police offered few details of what happened. But a police report says Belt and Durham got into a fight over money and ‘he hit her on the head, tied her up and took her to the cliff where he assaulted her again.’ According to the Washington Post, they were not romantically involved.
More than 200 people searched for the boy on Saturday and Sunday. He was found about 180 feet off the road in Jackson County, about 65 miles southeast of Lexington
Sanders said two hikers discovered Durham Saturday morning at the bottom of an 80-foot embankment.
‘James was with Jessica when he took her to the cliff and assaulted her,’ the report states.
Sanders declined to answer questions about what happened. He said more than 200 people searched for the boy on Saturday and Sunday. The search involved police dogs, aircraft from the National Guard and lots of volunteers. Sanders said authorities found the boy at 9:31 a.m. about 180 feet off the road in Jackson County, about 65 miles southeast of Lexington.
Video courtesy of WYMT
The news was devastating for Durham and her family, which includes some relatives in Florida who were enduring Hurricane Irma while authorities were searching for the boy.
‘Honestly, it’s been hell. That’s the only way to describe it,’ said Mary Batson, Durham’s sister.
Cynthia Wallace, Durham’s mother and the boy’s grandmother, said she is still without power at her home near Winter Haven, Florida. She described James as a sweet boy who loved playing with cars and trucks and being in the water. He recently started kindergarten, and Wallace said she enjoyed looking at photos Durham sent her of the boy’s first day at school.
‘He was so happy, he loved school and he even wanted to go on the weekends,’ Wallace said. ‘It’s hard. It hurts. I just went through a hurricane and all of this here on top of me, I’m just hurt.’