Buried human remains recently discovered by authorities in the yard of an unincorporated Jackson County residence were apparently found after a teenage girl told police that the homeowner admitted to killing a woman and hiding the body, according to court records.
Law enforcement officials unearthed the remains Wednesday while executing a search warrant on a residential property in the 4000 block of South Buckner-Tarsney Road near Grain Valley. No criminal charges related to the discovery had been filed as of Wednesday night, but police say the unidentified body is part of a homicide investigation.
Police have not named the homeowner, 40-year-old Michael Hendricks, or anyone else as a possible suspect. But a teenage girl Hendricks is accused of sexually abusing told police that Hendricks confessed to killing a woman whose dismembered body was shown to her in photographs.
Hendricks is currently incarcerated in Jackson County jail on $500,000 bond related to the sex crime charges. Greg Watt, a criminal defense lawyer representing Hendricks, told The Star that he believes his client is innocent of any wrongdoing.
“We will be zealously representing the accused to the fullest extent of the law and believe strongly in his innocence concerning these matters,” Watt said in an emailed statement. “We have no doubt about our ability to provide strength during this difficult time and look forward to presenting his case to a Judge/Jury.”
The excavation on the property — a large house beside a two-lane highway near farmland and suburban Grain Valley — began around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Using heavy construction equipment, a massive hole was dug in the side yard of the home. Roughly a dozen police vehicles dotted the driveway as investigators with agencies including Jackson County Sheriffs, Independence, Grandview and the FBI congregated near the pile of dirt amid a sweltering July heat.
By the afternoon, an official briefing was given by Independence police offering some details explaining the mysterious activity in the quiet suburb. Officer John Syme, a spokesman for Independence police, the lead investigative agency, said human remains had been found in the area as police were following a missing person investigation.
The body was to be taken for forensic evaluation and identified, Syme told reporters near the scene. Once a positive identification is made, Syme said police will forward the case to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office to seek criminal charges.
Syme declined to name the missing person case, saying that was part of the ongoing investigation. But he said detectives were in contact with the family related to that case.
Other questions were also not immediately answered, including how long the body is thought to have been there or the age or sex of the presumed victim.
“There’s nothing I want to do to hinder that investigation at this point in releasing any premature information,” Syme said. “There’s a body in the ground. I’m gonna leave it at that for now.”
Hendricks and his girlfriend, Maggie Ybarra, 30, currently face charges in Jackson County Court of having sex in front of a minor, child molestation and attempting to impede a felony investigation. In court filings related to those allegations, the teenage girl says both of them sexually abused her between October 2020 and April 2021.
Court records identify the teenager only by her initials. The Star generally does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Police were initially called by a caseworker for the girl, who is in foster care. The girl later told detectives she visited with Hendricks and Ybarra periodically in recent months, according to court records.
One visit described by the girl depicted Hendricks and Ybarra attempting to coerce the girl into having sex with them. She was molested by Hendricks while he was having sex with Ybarra at that time, court records allege.
During the visit with the couple, Hendricks allegedly showed the teenager pictures of a woman bound, gagged and tied up. Others showed dismembered human body parts.
Hendricks admitted to choking a woman to death and putting her in the freezer, the girl told the detective. He also allegedly told the teenager “it turned him on when people die.”
“She said that they told her they buried the body,” the detective who interviewed the girl wrote in a court document. “(Redacted) said she knows the area of where it is.”
The girl identified Hendricks by name and his physical description, including a tattoo on his back. She also told the detective that she wished everything that happened was “just a dream.”
In May, Hendricks and Ybarra allegedly sought to tamper with the investigation by pressuring the teenager to keep quiet. They also are accused of discarding physical evidence related to a criminal investigation from Ybarra’s Grandview home.
The Star’s Glenn E. Rice contributed to this report.