SALINAS, Calif. - A couple under arrest in Monterey County have been accused of severely neglecting their three children, one of whom was chained to a wall in their house.
The 8-year-old girl was skeletal thin and had hardly eaten in months, officials said.
Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller described the scene as "one of those cases that sticks with you for some time."
"When you've got over 30 years in the business, you've seen way too many of these types of things before," he said. "But this is, in terms of child abuse and neglect, this is toward the top."
On Friday, Miller announced the arrests of Eraca Dawn Craig, 31, and Christian Jessica Deanda, 44. Craig and Deanda, domestic partners, are accused of severely neglecting the three children — two boys, ages 3 and 5, and the 8-year-old girl.
Craig and Deanda were arrested March 15. The charges were announced nearly a week later after further investigation, Miller said in a news conference Friday afternoon.
Investigators became aware of the case after the family missed several appointments, Miller said. He would not comment on the specifics of the missed appointments but did say the two elder children were home schooled and therefore not missed at an area school.
Miller would not comment on whether either woman has a criminal background.
At the residence just outside the Salinas city limits, investigators discovered a grisly scene.
"The conditions are reported as squalid," Miller said. "There was very little food in the residence. There's also concern the little girl — the 8-year-old — was from time to time chained to the wall of the residence and was denied food."
Twin heavy chains hung from the wall 4 feet off the ground. At the end of the chains, investigators found a collar they said was wrapped around the girl's neck or leg to keep her from seeking out food.
"She was extremely emaciated," Miller said. "She's been described as someone who looks like someone who'd been in a concentration camp."
All three children were malnourished, but the abuse appeared centralized on the girl, who was hospitalized for five days after the deputies found her, Miller said. Since then, all three have been placed in foster homes.
Only the youngest boy is biologically related to one of the women; the two other children had been adopted, he said.
Miller said he was unsure how long the abuse had been taking place.
"The fact that it appears she was actually chained to the wall to keep her from eating, those are the kinds of facts that tear at you," he said. "That's the kind of thing that differentiates this from most other types of abuse cases."
Craig and Deanda are being held on $50,000 bail, according to Monterey County Jail personnel. They are scheduled to be in court Friday, March 28, for a preliminary hearing.