Tami Joy Huntsman, 39, and Gonzalo Curiel, 17, made a brief appearance Wednesday in Plumas Superior Court before being taken to Monterey County to face charges of murder, torture, mayhem and child abuse involving three children in their custody.
The case, which began Dec. 11 with their arrest in Quincy on suspicion of abuse of a 9-year-old girl, quickly escalated to include homicide charges with the discovery two days later of the girl’s sister and brother, ages 3 and 6, their bodies stuffed in a plastic bin and stashed inside a storage locker in Redding, 140 miles away. The children’s father, a cousin of Huntsman’s, had left them in her care after their mother was struck and killed by a car and he was facing incarceration, according to family members.
At Wednesday afternoon’s arraignment in Plumas County, Judge Ira Kaufman accepted District Attorney David Hollister’s motion to dismiss the local case to allow Monterey County to prosecute Huntsman and Curiel, who were living in Salinas when the alleged crimes occurred.
“We had them for four to eight days up here. Realistically, it all happened in Monterey County – the broken bones, the abuse,” Hollister said.
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Huntsman, wearing a gray-and-white-striped jail jumpsuit, was visibly agitated before the hearing, holding her shackled hands in front of her face to avoid being photographed. Curiel, who is being tried as an adult, was shackled and sat separately and remained impassive throughout the five-minute proceeding.
The arraignment, originally scheduled for Thursday, was advanced due to concerns about the security of the defendants, Hollister said.
Plumas County officials have been on high alert as news of the crimes spread, eliciting public outrage over the abuse the younger children suffered before their deaths, and anger over the cruelty to their sister, now 10. She suffered broken bones and teeth, and had infections, weighing 40 pounds. She was barely able to walk when a Plumas County deputy found her, Sheriff Greg Hagwood said.
“She was the living, breathing example of what’s depicted in concentration camp photos,” Hagwood said.
Kaufman ordered Huntsman and Curiel to be held on a no-bail warrant pending their incarceration in Monterey County.