Tami Joy Huntsman declared on Facebook that she was “being the best mom I can be.”
But last week, authorities acting on a tip arrived in the Northern California town of Quincy and took a scrawny 9-year-old girl from Huntsman’s apartment.
Authorities say the girl was starved: She weighed no more than 40 pounds, and had untreated broken bones.
Huntsman, 39, was charged with felony child abuse, torture and mayhem. She refused to say what had happened to two other young children under her care, whom relatives said they couldn’t find.
Huntsman’s boyfriend, Gonzalo Curiel, 17, was charged as an adult on similar counts. Curiel pointed Plumas County Sheriff’s detectives to a storage locker in Redding, about 130 miles from Huntsman’s home in Quincy, local media reported.
There, police made a horrifying find: the bodies of a 3-year-old girl and her 6-year-old brother, siblings of the 9-year-old.
Since then, the investigation has spanned three Northern California counties as detectives attempted to retrace Huntsman’s and Curiel’s steps over the last few months.
As recently as August, Huntsman was living in Salinas, said Elliott Robinson, director of the Monterey County Department of Social Services.
Between September 2014 and August of this year, social workers there received four referrals for general neglect regarding the five children in Huntsman’s care, Robinson said. Besides the 9-year-old girl and her younger siblings, Huntsman was caring for her own biological twins. The twins were place in foster care after her arrest, the Sacramento Bee reported.
The remains found in the storage unit were those of Delylah, 3, and Shaun, 6. They appeared to have died from abuse, Robinson said. It was not immediately known when or how they died.
By late November, Huntsman, Curiel and at least some of the children were on the move, Redding police say. From Nov. 27 to last week, they traveled between Salinas, Redding, Shingletown and Quincy, where the two were arrested Friday.
Court records show Huntsman also spent time in Santa Cruz County. In 1997 and 1998, she was accused of felony child endangerment and charged with other drug-related crimes. She was convicted only of the drug violations, court records show.
Huntsman’s brother also is facing prison time, though for an unrelated crime. An El Dorado County grand jury indicted Wayne Huntsman last year for allegedly starting the devastating King fire, which destroyed 12 homes and scorched 97,000 acres of forest in 2014.
Tami Huntsman and Curiel each are being held on $1-million bail. They made an initial court appearance Tuesday but did not enter a plea. The 9-year-old girl is recovering in a Sacramento hospital.
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