MURDER SUSPECT ADMITS TO KILLING YOUNG MOTHER IN FRONT OF HER KIDS. By Mass Appeal News
KANSAS CITY, Mo – On Friday, homicide suspect Ja A. Ray pleaded guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court to the brutal stabbing and drowning death of 21-year-old Essence Willoughby – his former girlfriend. The murder occurred in Nov. 2012 in the presence of the couple’s two young sons, ages 2 and 3. One of the boys, who prosecutors labeled a “brave, brave young 3-year-old child,” was alert enough to lead law enforcement officials to Willoughby’s body. She was found face-down in a creek. Ray, 43, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after offering his condolences to the family.
Circuit Judge Sandra Midkiff accepted Ray’s plea before rendering a sentence of 25 years for murder in addition to another 7 years for PCP possession in a separate case. Ray must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before being considered for parole. According to court documents, Ray beat and stabbed Willoughby before hauling her dead body to a wooded area near the church they just attended.
The older boy told investigators his mother was “bleeding in her face as she was screaming and kicking in the sticks” before adding that his father started “cutting his mommy in the stomach” as he and his brother sat there and cried. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker lauded the heroic effort of the child that “brought justice.”
“This outcome saves this strong family of the victim the continuing grief of a trial,” said Baker in a written statement. “The hero in this case is the 3-year-old who witnessed this horrific tragedy. He was ready to tell the truth about those horrible events.”