Monterey County prosecutors have filed murder, torture and child-abuse charges against a couple believed to have killed two young children in their care and left them stuffed in a plastic storage bin inside a Redding storage locker.
The criminal complaints name Tami Joy Huntsman, 39, and her companion, Gonzalo Curiel, 17, and make Huntsman eligible for the death penalty if the Monterey County district attorney chooses to pursue it. That decision will not be made until after a preliminary hearing.
Curiel will be tried as an adult but cannot face the death penalty because he is 17, District Attorney Dean Flippo announced Monday.
The two were arrested in Plumas County on Dec. 11 after a deputy called to do a welfare check found an emaciated and beaten 9-year-old girl inside a Toyota SUV parked on Main Street in Quincy.
Both were charged with torture and child abuse, and Huntsman’s 12-year-old twins, who were with the couple, were placed into foster care. Subsequent investigation led to detectives being told there still were two other children missing, and they returned to question the suspects Dec. 13. Information obtained from the suspects led to the storage locker.
Redding police were dispatched to the storage park. They discovered the bodies of the children that night in a unit that a worker at the facility said was rented by Huntsman on Dec. 4.
Since the discovery of the bodies and autopsies last week, authorities have determined that the children likely were killed in the Salinas area. Monterey County authorities have taken the lead in the case.
Neither suspect has been moved yet to Monterey County. Huntsman has been held in the Plumas County jail and Curiel in a Butte County juvenile facility. Flippo said they likely would be moved in a week or so. Prosecutors in Plumas and Shasta counties have agreed to allow Flippo’s office to handle the prosecutions.
The gruesome case has captivated Northern California and prompted offers of help and gifts from across the nation for the surviving girl, who turns 10 on Tuesday.
Each defendant faces two counts of murder, three counts of torture, one count of child abuse, a count of conspiracy to commit torture and a count of conspiracy to commit child abuse.
The girl, the older sibling of the dead children, had multiple fractures, broken teeth and infections, and weighed only 40 pounds when she was rescued.
The criminal complaint spells out what prosecutors believe the couple did to the surviving girl, saying they refused to provide proper clothing, shelter, food or medical care and that they repeatedly restrained her, hit her, broke numerous bones and kicked her.