Three children discovered in a filthy Salinas, California home on March 14 were starving and severely abused. In addition, it appears as though one of the children had been shackled at least some of the time, as suggested by the two chains found hanging from a wall in the residence. Officials, who entered the home in Monterery County on reports that two of the children had missed scheduled appointments, are described as having been shocked by what they found inside. No details were made available regarding the nature of the missed appointments, but the two older children were home-schooled by their mothers and therefore not in regular contact with the outside world.
The sheriff of Monterey County, Scott Miller, held a press conference on Friday in which he said that in his 30 years in law enforcement, he has seen countless cases of child abuse, but the case in Salinas is “towards the top.”
Miller said that of the three children removed from the dirty, cluttered home, an 8-year-old girl appeared to be the main target of the abuse, but all three were bruised and showed signs of both physical and emotional abuse. Although all children appeared to have not eaten in months, and there was little food in the home, the girl’s appearance in particular resembled that of a “concentration camp” survivor. She had been secured to the floor with chains to prevent her from having access to any food. The other children were a 3-year-old boy and a 5-year-old boy who are said to be recovering. The girl was hospitalized for approximately five days and is described by Miller as “traumatized.” He added that it appears as though she was on occasion held prisoner in a closet and had been chained both at her ankle and with a collar around her neck. All children are now in protective custody in different foster homes.
The children’s parents have been arrested on charges including false imprisonment and suspicion of felony child cruelty and are being held pending bail of $50,000. They have been identified as domestic partners Christian Jessica Deanda, 44, and Eraca Dawn Craig, 31. The women appeared in Monterey County Court for their arraignment hearing on Tuesday. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 28. Police report that both the girl and the older boy had been adopted, while the youngest boy is the biological son of either Deanda or Craig.
The Monterey Herald reports that one of the women once worked as a corrections officer and is trained as an auto mechanic. The other is described as a businesswoman who also worked as a clinic counselor in New Mexico and California. The women were registered for gifts for their upcoming wedding on March 29.
According to Miller, when discovered by officials, the children exhibited no outward signs of relief or happiness. Miller attributes that seemingly-odd behavior as possibly being because the children had suffered so much that they had forgotten what it felt like to be happy. In addition, the abuse they suffered has probably caused them to distrust adults in general. The investigation continues as police seek to determine for how long the children were held prisoner in the Salinas home. At the time of the arrest, officials believe the women were preparing to leave Salinas for the Central Coast.
By Jennifer Pfalz