SALINAS (CBS SF) – A 20-year-old Salinas man received two life sentences without the possibility of parole for the murder of two children in 2015 and an additional life sentence for the torture of the children’s half-sister, Monterey County prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Gonzalo Curiel pled guilty in April to the murder of 7-year-old Shaun Tara Jr. and 3-year-old Delylah Tara.
The siblings and half-sister Jane Doe, then 9 years old, moved to the Salinas home of their father’s cousin in April 2014 after their mother was killed in a car accident in December 2013.
The children’s father was incarcerated soon after, according to prosecutors, and his cousin Tami Huntsman, then 38, took over their care. She was living with her husband and three biological children in a small apartment on Fremont Street, according to prosecutors.
Curiel, 16 years old at the time and a friend of Huntsman’s oldest son, moved into the apartment in November 2014. Huntsman and Curiel had a sexual affair, according to prosecutors, and Huntsman’s husband left the home when he discovered their relationship.
Soon after, Hunstman’s oldest son was put into juvenile hall. Doe said the household changed drastically after he was incarcerated, and the children began to suffer abuse and starvation after his departure.
Doe testified and told jurors that Huntsman and Curiel hit, punched, choked, kicked and hit the three children with belts, according to prosecutors.
Doe said the kids were locked in a cold cement bathroom without clothes for hours and days, zip tied to their beds and chairs and relegated to one corner of the bathroom where Curiel said they could not move, cry or huddle, according to prosecutors.
The punishment was being beaten or sprayed with cold water.
Doe said she tried to escape twice from a bathroom window and Curiel and Huntsman once pulled her into a room and Curiel beat her with a belt while Huntsman held her down.
Doe’s forearm, shoulder, jaw and several of her fingers were broken and prosecutors said the couple refused to get her medical help and her injuries healed improperly. According to prosecutors, a doctor testified that her broken shoulder bone almost pierced her skin by the time she was rescued.
Doe said she saw her half-siblings with bruises and cuts on their bodies and the couple started feeding them less and less and eventually stopped feeding her at all.
She also testified that the children were often beaten for urinating on themselves because they were afraid to ask to use the bathroom.
The children died in November 2015 due to a combination of blunt-force trauma and severe malnutrition. Doe said she saw them endure a severe beating in the bathroom after which they were unable to walk, talk or open their eyes.
Prosecutors said she overheard an argument between Curiel and Huntsman where he admitted to the whole thing being his fault, and said he should leave. Huntsman begged him to stay, according to Doe’s testimony.
Prosecutors said Doe did not see her siblings alive after that day, but the couple would tell her and other family members that the siblings had been put up for adoption.
The couple had actually put the children’s bodies into a 35-gallon blue plastic container and placed it in the trunk of Huntsman’s SUV, according to prosecutors.
They then traveled to Dunnigan, Shingletown, Redding, Salinas and Quincy in Plumas County, where they stayed with Huntsman’s relative.
The relative found out about Doe’s abuse and she, along with a friend, verified the abuse and alerted child protective services.
A Plumas County sheriff’s office deputy found Doe on Dec. 11, 2015, locked in the SUV covered in a pile of clothing.
Deputies said she was bruised from head to toe and her arm, shoulder, jaw and fingers were broken. She had pressure sores on her back and legs that pediatric specialists said are never seen in children who can walk, according to prosecutors.
The couple was arrested for child abuse, and Huntsman’s mother called sheriff’s deputies to ask about the two other children. A deputy told her that the sheriff’s office had no knowledge about the two other children.
Deputies conducted a “frantic” search, prosecutors said, and found that Huntsman had rented a storage unit in Redding on Dec. 4, 2015. Deputies found the decomposed bodies of Doe’s siblings inside the blue container.
Fifty-six witnesses provided testimony in the case, according to prosecutors.
Curiel will be given a mandatory parole hearing after serving 25 years of his sentence because he was under 18 when he committed the murders, prosecutors said.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.