REDDING, Calif. – A couple already charged with felony child abuse and torture of a 9-year-old girl who was so badly injured she had to be hospitalized is now accused of killing two children, authorities said.
Redding police officers acting on a tip from another police department Sunday, went to the AAA Enterprise Store-All and found a locked unit, police said. They broke the lock and inside discovered the two dead children.
Redding police launched a homicide investigation and said Tami Joy Huntsman, 39, and Gonzalo Curiel, 17, were considered suspects.
"This is a very fluid, complicated and ongoing case stemming from what appears to be a series of horrific acts," said Plumas County District Attorney David Hollister.
On Friday, the Plumas County Sheriff's Department received a call about a possible case of child abuse or neglect in Quincy, a town of about 1,700 people, authorities said. They went to the place where Huntsman and Curiel were staying.
Authorities found Huntsman's 9-year-old niece on the floorboard of a locked SUV, Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood said. She weighed about 40 pounds, had open sores, lice, broken bones and missing teeth, the sheriff said.
The girl was taken into protective custody and is receiving medical care in Sacramento hospital, the Redding police said. Huntsman and Curiel were arrested and charged with torture and felony child abuse.
"This has shaken my staff to the core," Hagwood told the Plumas News. "That little girl had been subjected to the most unspeakable measure of torture for an extended period of time. This is child abuse, the likes of which we haven't experienced [in Plumas County]."
Huntsman's two other biological children, 12-year-old twins, were placed in foster care, the Plumas News said.
The department also noted Huntsman and Curiel had physical custody of two children, Delylah Tara, 3, and her 6-year-old brother Shaun Tara.
"We knew nothing about a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old," Hagwood said. The two children had not been seen when the child abuse investigation started.
On Sunday, the Plumas County Sheriff's Office got a call from someone in Salinas, in Monterey County, asking about the two children, according to the Sacramento Bee. Deputies interrogated Huntsman and Curiel again and learned about the storage unit, the Bee reported. They called police in Redding.
Huntsman is not the mother of Delylah and Shaun, but her relationship to those children is undetermined, a social services official told CNN.