He Pushed Woman Off Cliff, Then Killed Her Son, 5: Cops

Victim's sister says money dispute led to kidnapping
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2017 10:35 AM CDT
He Pushed Woman Off Cliff, Then Killed Her Son, 5: Cops
James Spoonamore   (Sand Gap Fire Department)

Jessica Durham saw two faces, including that of her 5-year-old son. Then she was pushed off an 80-foot cliff. She would remarkably survive, but her son wasn't so lucky. Police and family say the 41-year-old Kentucky woman was beaten, then kidnapped along with her son on Friday in response to a money dispute, per WLEX. Her sister says a family friend arrived at Durham's home, repeatedly struck her in the head in an attempt to knock her out, then forced Durham into a car with her son, per the Lexington Herald-Leader. The man drove until he reached an 80-foot cliff in Jackson County and pushed Durham over the edge, the state police commissioner says. That was the last time Durham—discovered by hikers the next day—saw her son alive, per WHAS.

Though her alleged assailant was located hours after Durham was found with a broken ankle, shattered pelvis, internal bleeding, and a head injury, 5-year-old James Spoonamore seemed to have disappeared. In what police are now calling a "tragic" turn, however, James' body was found Monday in a national forest, a little over half a mile from the spot where Durham was discovered Saturday. "It's horrible anytime you have a death. But when you have the death of a young child, it hurts even more," says the commissioner. An autopsy is scheduled. Meanwhile, Lonnie Belt, said to be 40 or 41, has been charged with murder, kidnapping, assault, and evidence tampering after police say he painted walls to hide Durham's blood. He's held on a $100,000 bond. (More murder stories.)

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