HARRISONVILLE, Mo. — The Rinehart sisters never had real beds.
Or dressers. And certainly not computers and posters on the walls like a lot of teenage girls.
No room for any of those in an overhead camper. And that's where they lived for much of their lives as their father, accused last week of incest and murdering a baby, kept the family moving from town to town. Their mother was along, too, but authorities say she did little to stop the abuse.
The sisters had only each other, and it was in one another's arms where they found comfort. Particularly at night in the cramped camper where every sound whispered in the darkness.
So on Monday in a relative's farmhouse in rural Johnson County, Mo., where two of them tearfully told their story, they first wanted to send a message to the sister authorities say had four babies by her father. She is staying at an undisclosed location.
"We love and we miss you," said Hayley Rinehart, 18.
"We're praying for you, and we'll all be together again soon," added Terri Rinehart, 20.• • •
The sisters' version of events — nomadic lives filled with abuse, neglect, hunger and threats of violence — is supported by family members, court documents and an investigation by the Sheriff's Office in Cass County, Mo., a largely rural county south of Kansas City where Harrisonville is the county seat.
The father, Danial Rinehart, 47, is scheduled to appear in court Thursday. Authorities say three of the four babies he fathered by the second-oldest daughter, who is now 19, are dead. A 3-year-old boy is alive and in state custody.
Rinehart is charged with second-degree felony murder, child endangerment, two counts of incest and two counts of abandonment of a corpse. The remains of two infants were found in chest-type coolers.
His wife, Linda Rinehart, is charged with child endangerment. Authorities say she was jealous of the relationship between her husband and daughter but helped with the babies’ deliveries.
Danial and Linda Rinehart were arrested last week after an investigation set in motion when Hayley ran away and called police from a Wal-Mart here.
"Our dad told us if we ever told, he would kill us," Hayley said. "But I got so tired of seeing my sister go through all that and us living the way we all were.
"So when I could, I finally got away from there and spilled my guts."
And then she ran.
According to the sisters and court documents, Danial Rinehart began molesting his second-oldest daughter when she was 13.
The family was traveling and in Oklahoma when the first baby was born in October 2004. Shortly before the birth, the daughter came to Hayley and said she had something to tell her.
"You can tell me anything," Hayley told her.
But Hayley and Terri already knew what was going on. They slept in bunk beds in the camper, and their mother slept in the compartment that extended over the cab. A fourth daughter, now 15, who is mentally disabled, slept wherever she could find a spot.
Their other sister and father slept in a bed that converted from a table.
"She never had a boyfriend, and they were sleeping in the same bed, so it was obvious what was going on," Terri said.
Hayley became the primary care provider for the baby. She said she didn't know how to at first and was scared but did her best and loved the baby.
Four months later, though, the baby died. Hayley said the little girl, Ethyl, fell off a table and hit her head.
While telling this part of the story, Hayley hung her head and cried: "We dressed her in a pink dress and put her in a box. Dad said, 'OK, let's dig a hole.' And we buried her."
Then Hayley raised her head and paused before adding softly: "It rained that morning."• • •
After Oklahoma, the family kept moving.
Terri, the oldest daughter, rattled off a series of towns in Missouri, including Blue Springs, Independence and Oak Grove, but finally gave up. "I can't count them all."
Their aunt, Debbie McKinney, said it was important for their father to not let the girls stay anywhere too long.
"He was scared they would make friends and tell what was going on," said McKinney, Danial Rinehart's sister.
She and other relatives long had wondered about the family, but had no idea of the extent of the problem.
How the family lived is unclear, but the parents received a monthly check for the disabled daughter, according to the sisters and authorities. For a while, Terri worked cleaning rooms at a motel and was planning on using her pay to get away, but her father took the money.
The girls received sporadic schooling over the years. They can read, just not the big words. They said they were forced to care for the babies and their youngest sister and, mainly, keep their mouths shut.
The second child was born in August 2005 and is the survivor.
Prosecutors are investigating whether any of the other girls were molested. A difficulty, however, could be jurisdiction, because the family moved so often.
By late 2005, the family had settled on a small farm north of Harrisonville that belonged to Danial Rinehart's parents.
That's where the two other babies were born.
A boy born in November 2006 lived four months before reportedly dying of pneumonia. Rinehart is charged with felony murder in connection with his death. Authorities say he knew the infant was sick but did not seek medical attention.
The fourth baby was born last April. The daughter told authorities that her father told her the baby was stillborn.
Both babies born at the Cass County farm were placed in coolers, which were sealed shut with silicone and stored in a garage, according to court records.• • •
During the time at the farm, Hayley said, she was confined to the camper, which was parked in a shed behind locked gates.
It was her job to take care of the disabled sister and to keep the little boy out of sight from her grandparents.
Her grandmother was not allowed in the shed. Her grandfather died in 2005.
Hayley remembers the night Terri snuck her some food.
"It was cold that night, and she brought out some ramen noodles," Hayley said. "She could have got in a lot of trouble, and that's why I love my sister so much."
When Terri was 19, she left home. But not before, she said, her father picked her up and threw her across the room and threatened to kill her if she talked.
The sister who had the babies called a few days after Terri left and asked what was she supposed to do.
"I was so glad to be gone, I couldn't go back," Terri said. "But I felt so guilty to leave her back there. I was so scared."
When Hayley ran away, she didn’t tell her father. She went straight to Wal-Mart, called police and told her story. Then she disappeared for fear that her father would hunt her down. According to relatives, she stayed at safe houses and shelters in Kansas City.
Finally, she called an older cousin for help.• • •
A church has donated three burial plots for the dead babies.