A West Virginia couple was arrested Tuesday after two children were allegedly found locked inside a shed in Sissonville, police said.
According to the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office, police received a 911 call just after 5:46 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, regarding the welfare of the children. Deputy H.K. Burdette responded to the 200 block of Cheyenne Lane in Sissonville, where she found the two sibling minors — a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy — “locked inside a barn.”
Deputies made several attempts to contact family members but were unsuccessful, local news station WSAZ reported. The children said they had no way to open the door from the inside of the barn, which investigators also referred to as a shed.
“Deputies had to force entry into the barn where they located a juvenile male and juvenile female locked inside an approximate 20×14 foot room,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release. “The children had no means to exit the barn on their own, no running water, no bathroom facilities, and were obviously deprived of adequate hygenic care and food.”
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The teen girl told deputies they were last given food at approximately 6 a.m. Monday morning and had been locked inside the shed since. She also said this was a regular occurrence for the siblings and that they were not allowed inside the house, per WSAZ.
Deputies said the 20×14 shed had no windows and contained a single table and chair, no beds and no access to running water. A criminal complaint reported by WSAZ states there was an RV toilet sitting on the floor on a black tarp, but no functioning toilet. The floors of the shed were concrete, and the walls were plywood. Deputies observed a camera in the top left corner of the room, the complaint states, according to WSAZ.
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“If there was a medical emergency or fire, the children would be unable to exit the locked room to safety,” the criminal complaint states.
Another small child was found locked inside the house. Deputies found the child in “an unprotected loft, approximately 15 feet high,” the sheriff’s office said.
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No parents or guardians were located at the scene when deputies arrived. However, the adoptive parents, Donald Ray Lantz, 63, and Jeanne Kay Whitefeather, 61, arrived at the scene later that night.
Whitefeather reportedly admitted to deputies that the children were left in the shed and allegedly said “they like it.”
Lantz and Whitefeather were subsequently arrested on felony charges of gross neglect creating a substantial risk of injury. Bonds for the pair were set at $200,000 cash. A preliminary hearing date has been set for the couple on Oct. 12, WSAZ reported.
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The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigative Section is investigating the case along with Child Protective Services.
The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.