OZARK, Mo. – The third of four defendants in a child abuse case from Stone County has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

William Dalton McClendon pleaded guilty to abuse or neglect of a child in connection with the neglect, malnutrition and caging of a 4-year-old boy at a home with a Billings address. The case was heard in Christian County on a change of venue.

McClendon is described in a probable cause statement as the “boyfriend/roommate” of the child’s mother Dessa Barton. She pleaded guilty in January and was sentenced in March to 12 years on multiple child abuse and endangerment charges.

Another defendant, Richard Hilliker, was sentenced to five years in prison on child endangerment charges.

Barton’s mother Katherine Kost is set for a mental health hearing in Taney County court on May 19, 2022 after the bench trial was canceled in 2020. She is charged with child abuse or neglect and child endangerment.

According to a press release, Stone County dispatch received a call in November 2020 about a four-year-old boy found unresponsive. Medical crews went to a home in Billings to pick up the boy and take him to Cox South hospital in Springfield. The boy was then air-lifted to Kansas City in critical condition.

Sheriff Rader said the medical staff told the Sheriff’s Office that the boy suffered various injuries consistent with physical abuse. The primary concern, however, was extreme malnutrition.

Stone County detectives went back to the home on November 25 and found a wooden crate made of pallets. Sheriff Rader says detectives believe the crate was used to cage the boy for extended periods.

The boy had been in the care of Barton since January 2020. Barton and McLendon lived in the home in Billings with Kost.

Court documents say on November 11, the detective was reviewing messages between Kost and her boyfriend, Richard Hilliker, and noticed several text messages indicating Hilliker had been living or spending a lot of time at the home since September 2020. Detectives say some of the messages indicate Hilliker had direct contact with the boy, including the day he was taken to the hospital.