Two Teens Found Locked Away in Shed, Couple Arrested

A couple from West Virginia was taken into custody on Tuesday following the discovery of two minors allegedly confined in a shed in Sissonville, according to local law enforcement. The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office reported that a 911 call was received shortly after 5:46 p.m. on Monday, October 2, 2023, concerning the children’s wellbeing. Deputy H.K. Burdette was dispatched to the 200 block of Cheyenne Lane in Sissonville, where she discovered the two siblings, a 16-year-old girl, and a 14-year-old boy, locked inside what was described as a barn.

Despite numerous attempts, deputies were unable to reach any family members, as reported by local news outlet WSAZ. The children indicated that they were unable to unlock the door from the inside of the barn, also referred to as a shed by investigators.

The sheriff’s office stated in a news release that deputies had to force their way into the barn, where they found the two juveniles locked in a room measuring approximately 20×14 feet. The children had no means of leaving the barn independently, lacked access to running water, bathroom facilities, and were clearly deprived of adequate hygiene and food.

The teenage girl informed deputies that they were last fed around 6 a.m. on Monday and had been locked in the shed since then. She also mentioned that this was a regular occurrence for them and they were not permitted to enter the house, according to WSAZ.

The shed, measuring 20×14, had no windows and contained only a single table and chair, with no beds or running water. WSAZ reported a criminal complaint stating that there was an RV toilet on a black tarp on the floor, but no functioning toilet. The shed had concrete floors and plywood walls. A camera was observed in the top left corner of the room, according to the complaint.

The criminal complaint also highlighted that in case of a medical emergency or fire, the children would be unable to escape the locked room. Another minor was found locked inside the house, in an unprotected loft approximately 15 feet high, according to the sheriff’s office.

When deputies arrived, no parents or guardians were present at the scene. However, the adoptive parents, Donald Ray Lantz, 63, and Jeanne Kay Whitefeather, 61, arrived later that night. Whitefeather allegedly admitted to deputies that the children were left in the shed and claimed “they like it.”

Lantz and Whitefeather were subsequently arrested on felony charges of gross neglect creating a substantial risk of injury. Their bonds were set at $200,000 cash each. A preliminary hearing date for the couple has been scheduled for October 12, as reported by WSAZ.

The case is currently under investigation by the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigative Section in collaboration with Child Protective Services. The sheriff’s office has yet to respond to requests for additional comments.