SALINAS (CBS SF) — Monterey County prosecutors were seeking the death penalty against a woman charged with the deaths of two children found in a storage unit in Redding and abuse of a 9-year-old girl last year.

Tami Joy Huntsman, 40, appeared Wednesday before Superior Court Judge Russell Scott at the Salinas Courthouse, where prosecutors announced that they are pursuing the death penalty against her, Deputy District Attorney Steve Somers said Thursday.

The second defendant in the case, Gonzalo Curiel, 18, has been charged as an adult and is ineligible for the death penalty because he was a juvenile at the time of the alleged crimes, but if convicted faces life in prison without the possibility of parole, Somers said.

Huntsman and Curiel allegedly abused the three children who were in the woman’s care in Salinas and two of them were killed on or sometime after Nov. 27, according to a complaint filed in the case by prosecutors.

The suspects traveled from Salinas north to Plumas and Shasta counties between Nov. 27 and Dec. 11.

The oldest child was a 9-year-old girl found Dec. 11 injured at an apartment in Quincy, an unincorporated community in Plumas County, according
to police.

The bodies of the two other children, identified as 3-year-old Delylah Tara and 6-year-old Shaun Tara, were discovered Dec. 13 in a plastic container at a rental storage unit in Redding.

Huntsman and Curiel have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, torture, child abuse, conspiracy and special circumstances allegations.

The defendants waived their right to a preliminary hearing earlier this year and set to stand trial on Feb. 6, according to Somers.

The death penalty decision was made by District Attorney Dean Flippo based on interviews with the victims’ families, law enforcement personnel involved in the investigation and Huntsman’s record.

Prosecutors also considered a presentation by the defense attorneys who opposed the death penalty for Huntsman and the facts of the case, according to Somers.

“It was a weighty decision that we took our time deciding because we wanted to make sure we were right,” Somers said.

The defendants are scheduled to return to court on Sept. 7 to schedule future hearings and motions expected to be filed in the case.

Attorneys for Huntsman and Curiel didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

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