A 39-year-old woman and her teenage companion are in custody after the bodies of two young children reportedly under their care were found inside a Northern California storage unit, authorities said.
The homicide investigation into Tami Huntsman and Gonzalo Curiel began over the weekend after Pluma County Sheriff's deputies found an emaciated, badly injured 9-year-old girl locked in a car outside a home they were staying at in Quincy.
Interviews with family members led them to storage facility in the area, where the bodies of Delylah and Shaun Tara were found in a rented unit, Redding police said.
An autopsy to determine how the two children died was scheduled for Wednesday, but Huntsman and Curiel already face life in prison on charges of felony child abuse, torture, and mayhem in connection with the starving 9-year-old girl, who was recovering at a hospital after undergoing surgery for broken bones.
The condition of the girl and the grisly discovery at the storage unit left local officials shocked.
"This investigation has had a profound impact on anyone who came in contact with it," Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood told the Sacramento Bee. "When you see what has been done to a beautiful little 9-year-old girl...Anyone not affected needs to get some help."
The case started to unfold on Friday, when sheriff's deputies responding to a possible case of child abuse found the girl in the locked car. She was rushed to a hospital for treatment, while two older children — a 12-year-old boy and female twins — who were also at the Quincy residence were placed in foster care, Puma County News reported.
Police said Huntsman and Curiel had been traveling between Salinas, Redding, Shingletown, and Quincy since Nov. 27, at one point staying at a Motel 6 in Dunnigan before arriving at the home, which belongs to a friend.
During the investigation, deputies were tipped off to the storage unit through interviews with family members, leading to the discovery of Delylah and Shaun Tara's bodies.
Officials did not immediately release how the two children were related to each other, but Action News Now reported that Huntsman is their aunt and became guardian after her sister died in a traffic crash two years ago.
Redding police said Huntsman and Curiel are considered suspects in the case as investigators await autopsy results.
Little was known about the other children taken into protective custody, although the apparent father of the twins, Chris Criswell, posted a message on his Facebook page asking for help in getting to Quincy.
He reportedly divorced from Huntsman two years ago.
"I am sick and numb all the same for the loss of two beautiful baby's Sean and delila tara I am so sorry for all your pain," Criswell wrote on his Facebook page.
Meanwhile, Huntsman and Curiel, who are being held in Quincy in lieu of $1 million bail each, did not enter pleas to the child abuse charges during a court appearance on Tuesday. Curiel is being charged as an adult.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Huntsman has a history of alleged child abuse and other felonies dating back to the 1990s. Her brother is also accused of starting the massive King fire, which in 2014 scorched 12 homes and nearly 100,000 acres in El Dorado County east of Sacramento. Wayne Huntsman has pleaded not guilty to arson in the case.
Jason Wells is deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jason Wells at email@example.com.
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