This Article is From Dec 16, 2015

Woman Who Longed To Be 'Best Mom I Can Be' Suspected In Death Of 2 Kids Found In California Storage Unit

Woman Who Longed To Be 'Best Mom I Can Be' Suspected In Death Of 2 Kids Found In California Storage Unit

On Facebook, Tami Joy Huntsman's profile picture was a photo of her hugging a smiling girl, she listed her profession as "being the best mom I can be."

On Facebook, Tami Joy Huntsman was all about the children.

Her profile picture was a photo of her hugging a smiling girl. She listed her profession as "being the best mom I can be."

In real life, however, Huntsman appears to have been anything but a great mother.

On Friday evening, authorities in the rural northern California town of Quincy received a tip about child abuse at an apartment where Huntsman and her 17-year-old boyfriend, Gonzalo Curiel, were staying. When Plumas County child protective services agents arrived at the address, they were sickened by what they discovered.

In a locked car outside the apartment, agents found a 9-year-old girl barely clinging to life. The girl, reported to be Huntsman's niece, had been starved down to 40 pounds and suffered from broken bones in her shoulder and fingers. Her jaw was dislocated and her teeth were missing or loose. She had open sores and was infested with lice.

"This has shaken my staff to the core," Plumas County sheriff Greg Hagwood told the Plumas News. "That little girl had been subjected to the most unspeakable measure of torture for an extended period of time. This is child abuse, the likes of which we haven't experienced here."

Deputies arrested Huntsman and Curiel on felony charges of child abuse, torture and mayhem. The girl was rushed to the hospital, where she underwent five hours of surgery on Sunday.

"When you see what has been done to a beautiful little 9-year-old girl," Sheriff Hagwood told the Sacramento Bee before pausing to fight back tears. "Anyone not affected needs to get some help."
But the horrific discovery was just the beginning.

Authorities quickly learned that Huntsman and Curiel were new to town. The couple had arrived several days earlier from Salinas, six hours south, with the 9-year-old girl as well as two 12-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, who authorities found at the apartment and immediately placed into foster care, according to the Plumas News.

When detectives began speaking to the couple's families on Saturday, however, they learned that two other children were unaccounted for: 3-year-old Delylah Tara and 6-year-old Shaun Tara.

According to Action News Now, Huntsman became the kids' guardian after their mother, Huntsman's sister Vivian Saucedo, was killed in a traffic accident two years ago.

"We knew nothing about a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old," Hagwood told the Bee. "That was the first we knew anything.

"The information was very specific and very credible."

Detectives pressed Huntsman about the missing children, but she was uncooperative, the Plumas News reported. When investigators interrogated Curiel, however, he told them about a storage locker in Redding, 130 miles northwest of Quincy.

Inside the storage unit, authorities would uncover a crime even more shocking than the tortured girl.

When Redding police cut the lock off the Enterprise Store-All unit's door on Sunday, they discovered the bodies of two children stuffed inside plastic tote containers, according to the Plumas News.

On Tuesday, Redding police announced they had launched a homicide investigation and that Huntsman and Curiel are considered suspects. As of Tuesday night, officials had not identified the dead children, although Huntsman's ex-husband suggested that they were, in fact, Delylah and Shaun Tara, the missing children.

"It has not been confirmed if [Delylah and Shaun Tara] are the same juveniles located in the storage unit," the Redding Police Department said in a statement. "The identity and cause of death of the two juveniles has not been determined. An autopsy is pending."

Huntsman and Curiel have not been charged in the homicide investigation. They both face already face up to life in prison if convicted of the child abuse, torture and mayhem charges relating to the case of the 9-year-old girl found in the car.

Curiel is being charged as an adult. He is currently being held at the Butte County Juvenile Detention Center, the Plumas News reported.

Huntsman has a history of alleged child abuse, according to the Bee. Originally from Santa Cruz County, she has been charged with child abuse on at least two previous occasions, the newspaper reported. In 1997, Huntsman was charged with felony burglary, grand theft and child endangerment, although those charges were dismissed. She was instead convicted of being an accessory to a felony after the fact, the Bee reported.

Eight months later, Huntsman was again charged with child endangerment, this time accompanied by a charge of possessing drugs for sale. She was acquitted of the endangerment charge and convicted of the drug charge, according to the Bee.

She is also the sister of the man accused of setting a huge wildfire last year, according to the Bee. Wayne Huntsman, 38, "willfully, unlawfully, and maliciously" set the so-called King Fire, a blaze that eventually burned more than 150 square miles of land near Sacramento and forced thousands of home evacuations, according to NBC. He has pleaded not guilty of the crime.

"Miss you bro," Tami Huntsman wrote alongside photos of Wayne posted on her Facebook page in Oct. 2014, shortly after his arrest.

Few other clues can be found on the Facebook page, which is under the name "Tami Jade (Tami Huntsman)." Huntsman wrote that she "started working at being the best mom I can be" on Aug. 16, 1994, the same day that she had a child, according to the page. The page also lists her favorite movies as children's films and her hobbies as "Call of Duty" and other video games.

Huntsman is the mother of the two 12-year-old twins taken into custody in Quincy, and the aunt of the 9-year-old girl discovered in the car, according to the Plumas News.

The father of the twins is a Salinas man named Chris Criswell, according to the Bee. The two appear to have divorced about a year ago, according to the newspaper.

On Monday morning, Criswell took to Facebook to post a frantic plea for money to help him retrieve the twins.

"I have a family emergency and I need gas and hotel money to go get my twins in Quincy," he wrote, adding that he was selling his brand new BMX bike to raise the cash.

That evening, he again took to Facebook, posting an article about Huntsman's arrest and the discovery of the two dead children in the storage locker, who he identified as Shaun and Delylah Tara.

"So yes this is Tami," he commented, adding that he was "sick and numb. . . for the loss of two beautiful [babies] Sean and Delila.

"I am so sorry for all your pain," he continued, apparently addressing the dead children. "[May] God be holding your hands [Your] uncle daddy loves you."

In a subsequent post, Criswell suggested he had been hounded by media asking about his ex-wife.

"The news is watching my fb and the man on the moon so I love u but I'm out for a while," he wrote.

Little else is known about Huntsman, Curiel or their relationship. The couple shared a Salinas apartment until Nov. 27, when they drove north to Redding, Shingletown and then Quincy, according to police.

Huntsman began renting the Redding storage unit on Dec. 4 before heading to Quincy, according to the Plumas News.

A week later, the hellish discoveries began.

Huntsman and Curiel are being held on $1 million bail each, according to the Bee. On Tuesday afternoon, they made a brief court appearance.

Huntsman, who had once boasted of being "the best mom I can be," left the courtroom in shackles with a blanket over her head.

© 2015 The Washington Post