SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (TCD) — A welfare check led to the arrest of two people this week who allegedly confined their adopted children to a barn without proper food or water.
According to a news release from the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office, on Monday, Oct. 2, at approximately 5:46 p.m., deputies were called out to the 200 block of Cheyenne Lane. No parents or caretakers were home, so deputies forced entry into the barn.
Inside, the Sheriff’s Office said deputies found a male and a female juvenile locked in a 20-by-14-foot room without running water or a proper bathroom, and they were “obviously deprived of adequate hygienic care and food.”
According to a criminal complaint obtained by WCHS-TV, the caller who requested the welfare check told dispatchers they believed the victims were confined to the shed for days at a time. The caller reportedly saw 63-year-old Donald Lantz open the door to talk to the children before he closed it and locked them in. The caller also said the children were allegedly forced to perform farm work and had to stay outside the home.
According to WCHS, deputies observed just one table and a chair inside the barn. The children, who were wearing dirty clothes, allegedly emitted a strong body odor, indicating that they hadn’t properly bathed for days. Deputies also noticed a concrete floor, plywood walls, and a camera in the corner of the room.
During a search of the property, the Sheriff’s Office discovered another small child locked inside the main home in an unprotected loft that was around 15 feet high.
Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Josh Lester told WCHS, “It’s a pretty bad case. You know, any type of situation like this is not really comparable to this horrific condition. It’s just not how you want or how you would expect children to be raised or taken care of.”
The victims’ adoptive parents, Lantz and 61-year-old Jeanne Whitefeather, eventually arrived on scene and were arrested on felony charges of gross child neglect creating a substantial risk of injury.
According to WCHS, Whitefeather confessed to deputies that she and Lantz left the children in the barn and that they “like it.”
The couple remains held in the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility on $200,000 bail each.
Child Protective Services took custody of the three adopted children.
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