In the year before two children were found dead in a California storage locker, social workers visited the home of their guardian at least four times but didn't identify enough of a risk to remove the children. "We're looking at the case to see if there's anything we should have done differently," social services rep Elliott Robinson tells KSBW. Authorities left "shaken" by the case say Delylah Tara, 3, and Shaun Tara, 6, died from long-term child abuse in the care of Tami Huntsman, 39, who family members say is the cousin of the kids' biological father; police say she may be the children's aunt, reports KSBW. The kids' father is believed to have granted Huntsman custody while in prison; the children's mother died two years ago. "If someone is incarcerated they can make independent arrangements for their [kids'] care without any public agency oversight," Robinson says.
Police say Huntsman lived in Salinas, Calif., but left home with the children and 17-year-old Gonzalo Curiel, who neighbors say is her boyfriend, on Thanksgiving weekend. They traveled to several cities from Nov. 27 to Dec. 11, the day a 9-year-old girl in Huntsman's custody was found locked in an SUV in Quincy. Police tell the Plumas County News the girl was lice-infested; had open sores, a dislocated jaw, and broken bones; and weighed just 40 pounds. Huntsman and Curiel were arrested for child abuse and torture, and Huntsman's own 12-year-old twins were taken into protective custody; it isn't clear in what condition they were found. Authorities later found the bodies of the 9-year-old's siblings in plastic containers in a storage locker, which Huntsman began renting Dec. 4. "In my 32-year career, this is the most egregious child abuse homicide case I've ever seen," says a police chief, adding Huntsman and Curiel will be charged with first-degree murder; Curiel will be tried as an adult. (Read more child abuse stories.)