Police in West Virginia say a white couple took in black children and made them work “like slaves”

Police in West Virginia say a white couple took in black children and made them work like slaves

Prosecutors say a couple from West Virginia adopted five Black children from a shelter to work as slaves and live in horrible conditions. They are now being charged with human trafficking, child abuse, forced labor, and other crimes.

The 16-count charge says that Jeanne Whitefeather, 62, and Donald Lantz, 63, adopted the children, ages 6 to 16, from a shelter for homeless and vulnerable youths to force them to work because of their race.

Based on West Virginia Metro News, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Maryclaire Akers said of the indictment, “It alleges human trafficking, violations of human rights, and the use of forced labor.” “The indictment says that these children were treated like slaves and that their human rights were violated because they were picked on because of their race.”

Jail records show that Whitefeather and Lantz are being held at the South Central Regional Jail in Kanawha County on a $500,000 bond. This month, both of them said they were not guilty. When asked for a comment, Whitefeather’s lawyer did not answer immediately. Officials in the court say that Lantz is defending himself, but he could not be reached for comment.

Sheriff’s officers in Kanawha County said they found the kids at the couple’s home in Sissonville in October while doing a welfare check. People there said they broke into a barn and found two kids inside a small room.

The children couldn’t get out of the barn on their own, there was no running water or bathrooms, and they were not getting enough food or clean water, the sheriff’s department said in a statement at the time. Then, they found a “small child” locked inside the main house by themselves, it said.

The two children in the barn, who were 14 and 16, said they had been locked inside for 12 hours and had to sleep on the concrete floor, which is what the accusation says. Files with the court said the kids were dirty and smelled bad, and the 14-year-old had “open sores on his bare feet.”

According to a filing seen by West Virginia Metro News, neighbors also said that the kids were made to work on the farm and weren’t allowed inside the house.

Whitefeather’s lawyer, Mark Plants told The Associated Press that there was “just a plain and simple misunderstanding about what is going on here” during the hearing. Plants said that there was a key inside the shed where the teens were found.

Many hours later, Lantz came home with an 11-year-old boy. He led police to a 6-year-old girl who was living with friends of the couple, according to WCHS-TV of Charleston.

Metro News reported that the couple is accused of abusing their children at first on their 80-acre ranch in Washington state and then in West Virginia, where they moved when they found out they were being probed.

Their initial bail was $400,000. However, this month, a judge decided that the bail amount was too low and raised each of their bonds to $500,000. Prosecutors said they think the couple paid the first bond with money they got from selling people at their homes in Washington and West Virginia, which they have since sold.

“We think the family lived in those two homes while they were committing the crimes.” Christopher Krivonyak, an assistant prosecuting attorney for Kanawha County, told NBC News, “That turned the homes from property into illegal goods.”

“We asked the judge to hold on to the money until we could go to court over the claims. That money should go to the kids if we’re right.

Source: NBC

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