Police Piece Together Events Leading to Discovery of Tortured Girl and Two Dead Children

Authorities across three California counties are trying to piece together the events and circumstances that led to the death of two children who were found in a storage unit and the discovery of three children, one of which was injured and starved, over the past week.

After receiving a call on December 11 asking them to investigate a potential case of child abuse and neglect, police arrived at an apartment in Quincy, California. There, they discovered a 9-year-old girl with serious injuries laying on the floorboard of a locked car parked outside, as well as two 12-year-old twins, who police said were "not in the same condition" as the girl.

The 9-year-old girl weighed around 40 pounds and had multiple fractures in her shoulder and fingers, as well as a dislocated jaw, according to The Plumas County News, which also reported that she had open sores and was infested with lice. Her condition led authorities to arrest Tami Joy Huntsman, 39, and Gonzalo Curiel, 17, who were staying at a friend's Quincy apartment. They have been charged with felony child abuse, torture and mayhem.

"This investigation has had a profound impact on anyone who came in contact with it," Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood told The Plumas County 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 here."

The victim, who has not been named, was first taken to a local hospital and then transferred to UC Davis Medical Center, where on Sunday evening she underwent five hours of surgery, according to The Plumas County News. Redding Police are unsure of her condition or whether she has been discharged.

The Plumas County Sheriff's office initially said that the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the girl required further investigation for possible additional victims. On Tuesday, however, The Sacramento Bee reported that the case took a turn when authorities received a call on Sunday from someone asking about the welfare of two children, ages 6 and 3.

"We knew nothing about a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old," Sheriff Hagwood told the Bee about the tip. "That was the first we knew anything.... The information was very specific and very credible."

Police then intensively questioned Huntsman and Curiel. Hunstman was uncooperative, The Plumas County News reports, but Curiel allegedly pointed authorities to the Redding storage unit, where that evening investigators discovered plastic containers where the bodies of two children who matched the informant's general descriptions were found.

Redding Police launched a homicide investigation that day, with Huntsman and Curiel as key suspects. The Salinas Police Department informed authorities in Redding that Huntsman and Curiel had custody of two children who had been reported as missing persons.

The Redding Police Department has identified the two missing children as 3-year-old Delylah Tara and 6-year-old Shaun Tara, but has not confirmed if they are the same children found dead in the storage unit.

"We're speculating it's the two missing juveniles," Lieutenant Pete Brindley of the Redding Police tells Newsweek, explaining that police are waiting for the completion of the two autopsies and forensic exams before confirming the children's identities, which are expected by Wednesday. "We're hoping to get positive identification as well as cause of death."

Authorities have not yet confirmed the nature of Huntsman and Curiel's relationship to the children, or their relationship with each other. "Our understanding at this point is that they are boyfriend and girlfriend," Brindley says of the two. "There are [also] reports out there that Huriel is her son. We haven't been able to confirm that."

Huntsman is allegedly the biological mother of the twins and the aunt of the 9-year-old girl, according to The Plumas County News, but became the little girl's adopted guardian after her mother died two years ago.

Police said that the duo left Salinas on November 27 and stayed at a Motel 6 in Dunnigan along the way. They also stopped in Redding and Shingletown before arriving in Quincy on December 7, moving into a friend's apartment with the three children. According to The Plumas County News, none of the children were enrolled in school.

The 12-year-old twins, which the Bee reports are a boy and girl, may be the children of Chris Criswell of Salinas. Criswell, the Bee adds, once lived with Huntsman and they may have been married.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Criswell said that he was having a family emergency and needed "gas and hotel money to get my twins in Quincy." Eight hours later he posted again, this time sharing a link to a media report about the child abuse and homicide investigations. "I am sick and numb," he wrote about "the loss of two beautiful [sic] baby's.

"I hope to get the twins [sic] wenesday," he continued. "Please don't call me I don't want to talk."

The 12-year-old twins are currently in foster care.

Prosecutors told local news station KSBW that Curiel will be tried as an adult, meaning both he and Huntsman face up to life in prison for the torture and child abuse charges, not including the possible homicide charges. Their bail is set at $1 million.