By Calvin Palmer
A 49-year-old Missouri man accused of impregnating his daughter four times and causing the death of one of the babies was convicted of second-degree murder and other charges today at a Cass County court.
Jurors took a little over two hours to convict Danial “Danny” M. Rinehart, of Harrisonville. He was also found guilty of six other counts, including incest, statutory rape, child endangerment and abandonment of a corpse.
The murder charge relates to the death of his daughter’s third child, who fell ill and did not receive any medical attention. The baby’s remains were put in a plastic container and sealed inside a cooler.
Remains of the daughter’s fourth child, a stillborn girl, were also found in a cooler on a rural property belonging to the defendant’s mother, Dolores Rinehart.
In January, new residents of the house at 24200 S. Taylor Road, in Harrisonville, reported finding two coolers with what appeared to be human remains inside. The coolers were behind a recreational vehicle inside a garage.
Rinehart was later arrested in Daviess County, Missouri, where he apparently had been living. The daughter and the only surviving child were with him.
As the verdict was read Rinehart appeared motionless and fought back tears.
His attorney, Janeal Matheson, told jurors in closing arguments today that there was no way of proving the child had died as the result of an illness and not Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Yesterday, a medical examiner testified there was not enough physical evidence to prove beyond a doubt that the baby had been sick and died of neglect.
“They moved around a lot, suffered financially, and it was difficult to do things most of us expect,” Matheson said. “Those things do not make Rinehart a murderer.”
Rinehart, his wife Linda and their four daughters spent several years living in a small recreational vehicle, often moving to places where the defendant could find work.
The 20-year-old victim, Ashley Rinehart, the second-oldest of the defendant’s four daughters, testified yesterday that her father first molested her when she was five years old.
Her tearful testimony told of how her father helped deliver her babies, and in three cases, helped bury them.
She had her first baby, a daughter, when she was 14, and buried the child in Oklahoma, in 2004, four months later after the girl fell off a couch and hit her head.
Her second child, a four-year-old boy, was born when she was 16. The next year she had another son, whose death from an illness led to the murder charge.
Prosecutors allege the boy could have been saved at a hospital but that the father refused to get medical attention for him.
“I stayed up with him for two nights and then dozed off for five seconds, and then I woke up and he was dead in my arms,” the daughter testified.
She said her father would not seek medical care for the baby because he “didn’t want to go to the hospital to see his son with hoses hanging out of him.”
A year later she had a daughter who was stillborn.After the jury delivered its verdict, Ashley Rinehart took the stand again and said that her father was also guilty of the theft of her childhood.
“I did not want to be my father’s sex slave,” Ashley Rinehart told the jury that then retired for the penalty phase of the Harrisonville trial.
Linda Rinehart is scheduled for trial in August on two counts of child endangerment. Authorities say she was aware of the incest, was even jealous of her daughter, but helped in the delivery of the babies in the crowded overhead camper and truck in which the family lived.