SALINAS, Calif. (AP) – A California couple appeared briefly in court Friday to face charges they killed two young children in the woman’s custody, stuffed their bodies in a plastic bin and stashed them in a rental storage unit.
Tami Joy Huntsman, 39, and her 17-year-old companion appeared in Monterey County Superior Court to be arraigned on first-degree murder charges for the deaths of a 6-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy in her care. Authorities say the children died Nov. 27 in Salinas after long-term and ongoing abuse. Their bodies were found Dec. 13 in Redding, California, some 300 miles north of Salinas.
The couple was also charged with abusing a 9-year-old girl in her custody. That girl was found with broken bones, starving and locked inside a SUV outside the home in Quincy, California, where the couple were staying. The girl weighed 40 pounds, authorities said. She is now in protective custody.
The pair didn’t enter a plea Friday and they’re due back in court Jan. 20. They’re being held without bail.
Huntsman faces the death penalty if convicted. The 17-year-old isn’t eligible for death row because of his age, but he is charged as an adult and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo said he will decide later whether to seek the death penalty for Huntsman.
Monterey County assistant public defender Jared Jefferson is representing both defendants at the moment and didn’t return a phone call Friday.
Investigators say the abuse of the children began more than a year ago in the couple’s apartment in Salinas, which is about 110 miles south of San Francisco.
Authorities say the couple left Salinas on Nov. 27 and drove 300 miles north to a motel. They spent time in several small towns in remote Northern California before their arrest in Quincy last month.
County social workers also gained custody of Huntsman’s 12-year-old biological twins.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.