Two adoptive parents are facing charges after children were found locked up in a barn with no running water or even a toilet.
Police were called to a property in Sissonville, West Virginia, after getting a 911 call over the welfare of the children living there, the local Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office said. An investigation was launched on Monday just before 6pm after the caller saw a man open a shed, speak to the young teens and then lock the shed behind him, authorities said.
Officers forced their way into the barn at the property and found a boy, 14, and girl, 16, locked inside the 20-foot by 14-foot room. They didn’t have access to water, a toilet, food or even hygienic care items, said officials.
The shed reportedly had no windows, no beds, or a single table and chair. The 16-year-old girl told officers this was a common occurrence for the siblings, reports WVVA. She also revealed that she and her brother had been given food at around 6am that morning, and then were locked inside the room until the authorities arrived.
In the main house on the property another child was said to have been found locked inside and alone. “I observed a small child through the window, appearing to be approximately 5 to 6 years old sitting alone on the floor of the loft.
I observed the child crying and close to the railing of an approximately 15-foot drop from the loft. Due to the distressed condition of the child and risk of the child falling, forced entry was made to secure the child,” the criminal complaint states.
The adoptive parents, Donald Ray Lantz, 61, and Jeanne Kay Whitefeather, 61, later arrived and were arrested on felony gross child neglect charges, a release from the sheriff’s department said. Whitefeather allegedly confirmed to the deputies that the children were left in the shed and said that “they like it,” reports WVVA.
Sergeant Joshua Lester told CNN the couple have five adoptive children ranging from 6 to 16 years old. Apart from the three locked up at the property, one child was with the two suspects as they arrived and another was with a separate caretaker. All five children were immediately placed in the custody of Child Protective Services, Sgt Lester said.
The two suspects are being held at South Central Regional Jail in Charleston, West Virginia, on a $200,000 bond each. Kanawha County Sheriff’s deputies previously said a complaint about the children’s welfare was made back in May and a second complaint was made in September, both with similar concerns.
In both cases, officers say no wrongdoing was noticed when they saw the children. Deputies told WSAZ the family moved to West Virginia recently from the state of Washington, and all five adopted children were home-schooled.