VANCOUVER, Wash. (CBS Seattle) — A Washington couple is accused of locking up their 16-year-old adopted twins and starving them.
Vancouver police say Jeff Weller, 42, and his wife Sandra, 48, kept both the children, and the food supplies, under lock and key. If they were caught trying to steal food, they were stripped and beaten with a wooden stick, among other punishments, KOMO-TV reports.
Sherry Hill, who manages public affairs for the children’s administration wing of Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services, said that the Wellers’ secret began to unfold on Oct. 5, when a referral was filed for investigation.
“This (source) indicated that one of the children had been complaining about the situation,” she told CBS Seattle, adding that when a social worker first arrived on the scene, the children who answered the door denied her entry, for fear of waking their father. “We investigated on (Oct. 7) … and determined that there was great cause for concern.”
At that point, local law enforcement was called to handle the situation.
“Law enforcement in our state determines whether or not children are taken into protective custody,” Hill explained. “They determined it was quite appropriate in this situation.”
The twins were reportedly adopted at age 2, and have suffered from physical and emotional abuse for as long as they can both remember.
According to KOMO-TV, the living conditions for the twins were dire. No electricity or clocks could be found in the room, and their father removed the knob inside the only door out, rigging it with an alarm in case they tried to escape.
The home itself was also allegedly found in a state of great disrepair, with bicycle locks placed on both the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets.
In addition to the twins, Hill said that the Wellers had four other children — a 14-year-old and 12-year-old who were Jeff Weller’s biological children, a 10-year-old who was Sandra Weller’s biological child, and a 4-year-old child the couple had together.
“The twins were in the worst situation … of abuse and neglect,” Hill noted.
All of the children have reportedly been moved from the home to protective custody, some with relatives and others with foster care.
“Whenever we remove children from their parent’s care, we do everything we can to get them with a relative and to keep the siblings together,” she explained.
Due to the criminal nature of the Wellers’ actions, law enforcement agents will handle the proceedings going forward. They are reportedly facing unlawful imprisonment, criminal mistreatment and second-degree assault charges.