Couple accused of locking adopted children in barn claimed ‘they like it’

One child said she is not allowed into the main house and would often be locked in the barn for long periods of time

Amelia Neath
Thursday 05 October 2023 11:54 EDT
Deputy speaks about children found neglected by two adoptive parents

A couple have been arrested after officers found two of their adopted children locked away inside a barn and a third child alone in a loft in West Virginia, police say.

Donald Ray Lantz, 61 and his partner Jeanne Whitefeather, 61, were both arrested on felony charges of gross child neglect creating a substantial risk of injury after they arrived home to find officers attending to the children.

Police were dispatched to the home in Sissonville on Monday evening after a 911 call regarding the welfare of the children.

Deputies forced their way into the barn to find a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, in dirty clothes, locked away in the 20 by 14-foot room.

The boy, who was also not wearing shoes, appeared to have sores on his feet, according to WSAZ.

The parents were not on the property when the police arrived.

“The children had no means to exit the barn on their own, no running water, no bathroom facilities, and were obviously deprived of adequate hygienic care and food,” police said in a statement.

A third small child was also found inside the main house alone 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,” a criminal complaint obtained by ABC stated.“Due to the distressed condition of the child and risk of the child falling, forced entry was made to secure the child.”

Two teens were found in dirty clothes locked up in this barn on the parents’ propety

The deputies launched an investigation after the 911 caller said the children were locked in the barn for days and were not allowed in the main home, the criminal complaint said.

The complaint went on to allege that there were no beds or no windows. The only other items recorded to be in there were a non-functioning RV toilet covered in black tarpaulin and one chair and table with a camera in the top left corner of the room, reported WSAZ.

"If there was a medical emergency or fire, the children would be unable to exit the locked room to safety," the criminal complaint read.

“It’s a pretty bad case,” Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Josh Lester told ABC. “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 16-year-old told deputies that they were given food around 6am on Monday and remained locked in the barn room for nearly 12 hours until they were found.

There was no way of getting in or out and a camera was set up inside the barn

She went on to say that she and her brother who was in the shed with her were often locked up there for long periods and were not allowed inside the house.

Ms Whitefeather allegedly admitted to deputies that the children were left in the shed and said "they like it," Fox News reported.

The three children were taken into the custody of child services.

There had been two other alleged complaints made this year regarding the adoptive parents, one in May and one in September, according to WSAZ.

Both times, deputies said they found no wrongdoing and even saw the children eating dinner.

However, this time, the parents were not home, despite officers trying to get hold of the couple.

The family had recently moved to the area from Washington and all the children were homeschooled, police said.

The parents are held on a $200,000 cash bond and they are expected to appear in court on 12 October.

Investigators with the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigative Section say they are investigating the case with Child Protection Services.

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