SALINAS, Calif. - Monterey County Sheriff's deputies are investigating an egregious case of suspected child abuse just outside Salinas, one that Sheriff Scott Miller calls the worst case of child neglect he's seen in his 30 years in law enforcement.
To see raw video of Miller discussing the case, click here.
Deputies say three children were starved and abused, and an 8-year-old girl was even chained to a wall to prevent her from obtaining food. The children were living in squalor, in a home that was cluttered and dirty, with very little food in the house.
Officers went to a Russell Road home in Salinas Friday for a welfare check. There they found two boys and a girl, malnourished and showing signs of physical and emotional abuse. The boys are 5 and 3, according to deputies.
"This was a particularly heinous case of child abuse," Miller said. "The little girl has been described as looking like someone who lived in a concentration camp."
The girl had to be transported to a hospital for treatment, but was released two days ago. All three children are currently being held in protective custody, though not together, according to deputies.
The area where the home is located is surrounded by agricultural fields and Friday morning, the yard outside the home was strewn with children's toys and debris.
Two women were arrested on March 15 on suspicion of multiple child abuse related charges, including false imprisonment and child endangerment.
Eraca Dawn Craig, 31, and Christian Jessica Deanda, 42, were taken into custody and booked into Monterey County Jail. The pair pleaded not guilty at their arraignments this week and are due back in court March 26.
The women are the adoptive parents of two of the children, deputies said. The youngest boy is the biological son of one of the women, though deputies declined to say which.
Deputies believe the suspects were getting ready to leave the area and head to the Central Valley. Several people had reported the children missing appointments and had asked deputies to check on the welfare of the children.
Miller said the girl seems to have been the major target of the abuse. He wouldn't immediately comment on whether the suspects have a prior criminal history.
As the case continued to unfold, SPCA of Monterey County rescued 14 animals including: three dogs, three fish, six cats, a bird, and a goat. This was not the first time SPCA had been sent out to the house.
Humane investigators were sent to the house this past Tuesday and found one of the dogs tangled from a tarp that was covering a shed in the backyard. Most of the animals were found with water but lacked food.
The SPCA of Monterey County told Central Coast News the neighbors told them they had been attempting to care for the animals after the arrest.
Eraca Craig Christian Jessica Deanda