More details released in case involving children found locked inside part of barn
UPDATE 10/4/23 @ 7:20 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) – More information was released Wednesday about a case of gross child neglect involving two children locked inside a closed-off area of a barn without access to food or water in Sissonville.
Kanawha County Sheriff’s deputies say a complaint was made back in May and a second complaint was made in September -- both with similar concerns.
In both cases, deputies say no wrongdoing was found when they observed the children in the home and, in one instance, they were eating dinner.
At the time deputies, went there for the third complaint both suspects -- Donald Ray Lantz, 63, and Jeanne Kay Whitefeather, 61 -- were not home.
Deputies also told WSAZ the family moved to West Virginia recently from the state of Washington, and all five adopted children were home-schooled.
Deputies say there are no prior criminal records of the two adults in West Virginia.
ORIGINAL STORY 10/3/23
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A man and woman are facing gross child neglect charges on Tuesday after deputies found two children locked inside a closed-off area of a barn without access to food or water.
According to the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were called to the 200 block of Cheyenne Lane in Sissonville on Monday, October 2 after a 911 call just after 5:46 p.m. regarding the welfare of the children.
When deputies arrived, they found no one at the home on the property, but did make contact with two children inside of a shed.
The children informed deputies there was no way for them to open the door from inside the closed-off area, which investigators also referred to as a shed.
After several attempts to contact family members, deputies forced their way into the shed where they located two juveniles, a girl, 16, and boy, 14, locked inside the approximate 20x14 foot room.
The girl told deputies they were given food at approximately 6 a.m. Monday morning, but had been locked inside the room since. The girl also told deputies she and her brother were not allowed inside the house and were locked inside the shed for long periods of time daily.
Deputies say there was no way to exit the room and there was no running water, no food, or bathroom facilities. Deputies also said the children were obviously deprived of adequate hygienic care, wearing dirty clothes. According to the criminal complaint, the 14-year-old boy was not wearing shoes and appeared to have sores on his feet.
Deputies described the 20x14 room with no windows as having a single table and chair, no beds, and no access to running water. The criminal complaint states there was an RV toilet sitting on the floor on a black tarp, but no functioning toilet. The floors of the shed were made of concrete and the walls were plywood. Deputies observed a camera in the top left corner of the room, according to the criminal complaint.
“If there was a medical emergency or fire, the children would be unable to exit the locked room to safety,” the criminal complaint states.
At the main residence on the property, deputies located another small child locked inside alone. The child was observed in an unprotected loft, approximately 15 feet high.
“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.
No caretakers or parents were located at the scene; however, family members, Donald Ray Lantz, 63, and Jeanne Kay Whitefeather, 61, of Sissonville, later arrived at the scene between 8:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.
Whitefeather admitted to deputies that the children were left in the shed but stated that “they like it.”
Lantz and Whitefeather were arrested on felony charges of gross child neglect, creating a substantial risk of injury.
Investigators with the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigative Section are investigating the case along with Child Protective Services.
Bonds for Lantz and Whitefeather have been set at $200,000 cash.
A preliminary hearing date has been set for October 12.
Lantz and Whitefeather are not allowed to have contact with any of the three children.
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