(BCN) — A woman and a teenage boy who recently moved away from Salinas are facing charges in the deaths of two young children found in a storage unit in Redding and the abuse of a 9-year-old girl found in Quincy, a community in Plumas County.
Tami Joy Huntsman, 39, and Gonzalo Curielo, 17, who will be charged as an adult, are expected to be charged with two counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances, Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo said during a news conference this afternoon.
The case could possibly lead to the death penalty, according to Flippo.
They are also expected to be charged with torture and causing great bodily injury to the 9-year-old victim, Flippo said.
“This is one of the worst cases that I’ve ever seen,” Salinas police chief Kelly McMillin said
The suspects are companions but McMillin did not further detail their relationship to one another.
While the children found in the storage locker haven’t been positively identified, Flippo said he was “absolutely convinced” that they are Delylah Tara, 3, and Shaun Tara, 6.
The two children were in Huntsman’s custody and discovered to be missing this weekend, shortly before the bodies were found, according to police.
The Shasta County Coroner’s Office on Wednesday carried out an autopsy on the two children and preliminary results showed they died from ongoing physical abuse, according to police.
The gruesome murder and abuse case began to unfold Friday around 3 p.m., when Plumas County sheriff’s deputies responded to an apartment in Quincy at 2110 E. Main St. for a welfare check following a request from Child Protective Services, sheriff’s officials said.
The deputies found an injured 9-year-old girl, who was transported to a Sacramento-area hospital for treatment of her injuries, according to sheriff’s officials.
Authorities would not disclose the girl’s condition, but McMillin today said she needed “substantial care.”
Deputies began an investigation into child neglect at the residence and were led to Huntsman and Curiel, who were arrested on suspicion of felony child abuse, torture and mayhem, police said.
The suspects were booked into jail with bail set at $1 million each, according to police.
Sheriff’s investigators got in touch with Salinas police on Saturday afternoon regarding a possible connection between the abuse case and an apartment unit at 501 Fremont St., where the suspecs previously lived, according to police.
Then the following day, Plumas County sheriff’s investigators contacted Salinas police to report two missing children, Delylah and Shaun, police said.
Sheriff’s investigators also called on Salinas police to conduct a welfare check at the Fremont Street apartment to figure out where the children were, according to police.
Salinas police placed the children in the statewide missing person database and continued to look for them, but were unable to contact any family members, police said.
The sheriff’s office notified Salinas police around 10 p.m. Sunday that two dead children had been found in Redding, a city in Shasta County, inside a plastic container in a rented storage unit, according to police.
Since Monday, authorities from Salinas police, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office and Redding police have been looking into leads in the case.
The suspects traveled between Salinas, Redding, Quincy and Shingletown, a Shasta County community, between Nov. 27 and Friday, according to police.
On Nov. 28, they stayed at a Motel 6 in Dunnigan, a Yolo County community north of Sacramento, police said.
The abuse likely started in Salinas and investigators are still determining where the deaths occurred, police said.
Two children, whose biological mother may be Huntsman, are also being investigated as victims in the case, McMillin said.
There is also a teenager, about 15 years old, who may also be a victim, according to Flippo.
It appears Huntsman was an aunt to Delylah, Shaun and the 9-year-old girl, but it’s not clear how she had custody over them, according to McMillin.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about the family dynamics,” Flippo said.
Salinas police Officer Jeff Munoz of the Salinas Police Officers Association said the union is setting up a bank account for the surviving victims that should be ready on Friday.
Salinas police dispatch records have shown officers have responded to the Fremont Street apartment unit within the past six months, McMillin said.
There were two anonymous calls of child abuse at the Fremont Street apartment. Officers were unable to find anyone at the unit during the first call, Mcmillin said.
When the second call came in, officers were able to gain access to the home, but were unable to find anything of a criminal nature, McMillin said.
Huntsman has been booked into Plumas County Jail and Curielo has been placed into Butte County Juvenile Hall, according to Flippo.
The suspects will be moved to Monterey County after investigators obtain arrest warrants for them, Flippo said.
McMillin said his department and the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office are the lead agencies on the case because investigators believe the alleged abuse and murder happened in Salinas.