Around 5:45 p.m. on Oct. 2, police were called to a residence in Sissonville. No parents or caretakers were home, so officers forced entry into the barn, according to the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office.
Inside the barn, deputies found a male and female juvenile locked in a 20-by-14-foot room. There was no running water or a proper bathroom and officers said the kids were “obviously deprived of adequate hygienic care and food.”
The caller told police they reportedly saw 63-year-old Donald Lantz open the door to the barn and talk to the children before closing it and locking it on them. The caller also said the children were forced to perform farm work and were not allowed inside the home, WCHS-TV reported.
There was only one table and a chair inside the barn, along with a concrete floor, plywood walls and a camera in the corner of the room, officers said. The children were wearing dirty clothes and allegedly emitted a strong body odor, indicating they hadn’t properly bathed for days, authorities said.
Police searched the property and found another small child locked inside the main home in an unprotected loft that was around 15 feet high, WCHS-TV reported.
The victims’ adoptive parents, Lantz and 61-year-old Jeanne Whitefeather, eventually made it back home and both were arrested, officials said.
Whitefeather allegedly confessed to police that she and Lantz left the children in the barn and that they “like it,” WCHS-TV reported.
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They were charged with gross child neglect creating a substantial risk of injury, police said. They were booked into the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility and are being held on $200,000 bond each.
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 three adopted children were taken into custody by Child Protective Services.
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