SAN FRANCISCO – A 39-year-old woman and a teenage boy are suspected in the deaths of two children whose bodies were found inside a storage unit in Northern California, in a case that came to light after police checked on a 9-year-old girl who was found starving and injured but alive, authorities said.
Autopsies for the 3-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy, who bodies were found at a storage facility in Redding, were planned for Wednesday. Authorities have not identified them nor said how they were related to the woman and her teenage companion.
The Redding Police Department said it has identified two children who were in the pair's custody and who are missing. But it added it has yet to determine if they are the same children found dead in Redding, a city of 91,000 located 300 miles north of San Francisco.
The pair traveled to several cities in Northern California between November 27 and December 11 and stayed at a motel in Dunningan, California on November 28, Redding Police said.
The investigation began Friday with a call about a possible child abuse case in the small Northern California town of Quincy, where authorities found the starving 9-year-old girl at a house, according to a news release from the Plumas County Sheriff's Office. The unidentified girl was taken to a hospital.
Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood told the Sacramento Bee a deputy discovered the girl inside a vehicle parked near an apartment the pair had recently moved to from Salinas.
Some officials handling the case were so shaken by the abuse the girl endured that they might have to take time off to recover, Hagwood said.
"This investigation has had a profound impact on anyone who came in contact with it," Hagwood said. "When you see what has been done to a beautiful little 9-year-old girl ." the sheriff said before stopping to regain his composure. "Anyone not affected needs to get some help."
Sheriff's officials arrested the 39-year-old woman and the 17-year-old boy on abuse allegations related to the 9-year-old. Each remained jailed on $1 million bail. The two were being held on suspicion of felony child abuse, torture and mayhem.
The case began as one of child abuse took a grisly turn on Sunday, when Plumas County authorities got a call from someone in Monterey County asking about the condition of a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old tied to the case. Detectives questioned the woman and teenager again and that's when they learned of the storage locker, the sheriff told the Bee.
Redding Police Lt. Pete Brindley wouldn't say whether the two children were killed in the storage unit or elsewhere.
The pair made a brief court appearance Tuesday but did not enter pleas and their arraignments were postponed until Jan. 7.
Attorneys Douglas Prouty, who represents the 39-year-old, and Robert Zernich, who represents the teen, both declined to comment. The Associated Press typically does not identify abuse victims; it is not naming the teen or the woman because their relationship to the children is unclear.
Meanwhile, south of San Francisco, authorities searched a home in Salinas, where the teen and woman recently lived. They did not say whether they found anything.
Social services had investigated the 39-year-old and her family within the last year for general neglect, said Elliott Robinson, director of social services for Monterey County.
Robinson's office filed the death reports for the two children found in Redding. He declined to comment further.