Prosecutor plans murder charges in death of 2 children found in California …
‘This is the most egregious child abuse homicide case I’ve ever seen': Police chief speaks after three-year-old girl and six-year-old boy were found dead in a storage locker.
Prosecutors said Thursday they will charge a woman and a teenager with first-degree murder in the deaths of two young children found dead in a rented storage unit in California. Salinas police chief Kelly McMillin said two dozen investigators are still trying to piece together the tangled and horrific series of events that led to the deaths. Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo made the disclosure at a news conference in Salinas, where authorities believe the children – ages 3 and 6 – had been killed. Police found the children’s bodies wrapped in a plastic tote container inside the AAA Enterprise Stor-All’s storage locker, which was rented by Tami Joy Huntsman, 39, on Dec. 11.
The Associated Press typically does not identify abuse victims; it is not naming the woman and teenager because their relationship to the children is unclear. Witnesses said they saw Huntsman and her boyfriend Gonzalo Curiel, 17, dropping items off at the unit, but didn’t see any children, the Record Spotlight reported.
Stephen Carlton said, he had never encountered a case more grim than the one involving the little boy and girl and the storage unit they were entombed in. “It’s the worst case I think I’ve ever seen in 50 years of practicing law,” Carlton said. “It disturbed everybody that was at the autopsy — the police officers, the head of detectives and also my deputy. The charges could be filed as soon as Friday and will include a special circumstance of torture that Flippo said could bring the death penalty if defendants Tami Huntsman, 39, and her 17-year-old male companion are convicted.
Chief McMillin said the girl was “in really, really bad shape and needed immediate and substantial medical care.” She remained hospitalized almost a week later, he said. The grim discovery was made in the case that has spanned three California counties after authorities first found a severely abused 9-year-old girl at an apartment in Plumas County last week. The day after the suspects were arrested, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office contacted law enforcement authorities in Salinas, more than 300 miles to the south, to alert them to a possible connection between Ms. Elliot Robinson, head of the Monterey County Department of Social Services, said the woman was visited by county child welfare workers four times over the course of a year to check on complaints of neglect.
Authorities have not positively identified the dead 3-year-old and 6-year-old as the missing children, but said they are convinced of their identities. The revelation came just a day after it was revealed that social services made four visits in the past year to Huntsman but decided the children were not at risk. The complaints between September 2014 and August were about general neglect, a category that includes poor supervision, improper feeding, lice infestation and dirty household conditions, Robinson said, adding that none of the complaints alleged physical abuse. Later that day, the bodies of a 6-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl were found inside a container that had been stuffed in a storage locker in Redding, Calif., a city more than 100 miles northwest of Quincy. Two of the children belonged to Huntsman, while the other three were placed in her care by their father who was incarcerated after the death of their mother, Robinson said.
Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood said she weighed about 40 pounds, had broken bones in her shoulder, broken fingers, a dislocated jaw, and teeth that were missing or loose. She reportedly had open sores and was infested with lice. ‘That little girl had been subjected to the most unspeakable measure of torture for an extended period of time. Two older children – 12-year-old male and female twins – who were at an East Quincy residence where Huntsman and Curiel were staying with a friend were immediately placed in foster care, the Plumas News reported. Though no children were taken from the home during those investigations, that wasn’t the case last week in Quincy, when a concerned resident called police about possible abuse. Hagwood told the Sacramento Bee that some officials were so shaken by the abuse endured by the nine-year-old girl that they might have to take time off to recover.
When exactly the abuse started is something that remains under investigation.” He said investigators were still working to determine where the children died and why the suspects traveled so far across the state. They saw no “overt signs of abuse,” he said, and no action was ultimately taken. “Whether there were opportunities missed, I think as we move through the investigation that is something we will absolutely be looking for,” the chief said.
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