Rarely Sought Death Penalty Requested in Child Abuse/Neglect Murder Case

Q: Is there a duty to report suspected child abuse or neglect?

From the time they are born until they reach their majority (and even long after that), innocent children should be loved, nurtured, and protected. In most cases, the parents proudly shoulder this responsibility and are often fierce protectors of their children’s welfare. Sadly, not every child is able to be raised by caring parents or family.

One of the most horrific cases of alleged child abuse and neglect in California is the pending Tami Huntsman case, a woman accused of atrocities that resulted in the deaths of her niece and nephew and nearly took the life of her other niece as well. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty—a move not taken in Monterey County in over a decade—for the charges of “two counts of first degree murder with special circumstances” against her.

After a tragic car accident took the life of a mother of three, her sister took custody of the three young children–two girls and a boy. Auntie Tami already had three children of her own living with her. She also allegedly took in a teenage boyfriend, a friend of one of her sons. Unfortunately, things only got worse for the three orphans.

On December 11, 2015, on a tip for a “welfare check” on a child, police responding to the Salinas apartment of the aunt and her boyfriend, discovered the oldest of the sister’s children, 9, on the floor of an SUV, severely malnourished (weighing only 40 pounds), neglected, and suffering from numerous horrific injuries indicative of several severe beatings. Her injuries included multiple fractured, broken, and dislocated bones, missing teeth, open sores, and lice. Two days later, police found the decomposing bodies of her two younger siblings, ages 6 and 3, in plastic bags in a Redding storage facility. Autopsies revealed they died weeks earlier as a result of “long-term physical abuse and neglect”.

Every adult has a duty to report child abuse. The Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (California Penal Code § 11164-11174.3) requires that people in a position of authority over children—mandatory reporters–must report known or suspected child abuse or neglect to the police or a child welfare agency within 36 hours of their knowledge of the incident. Mandatory reporters include educators, child care workers, medical professionals, psychologists, day care employees, clergy members, police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians, among others. California laws regarding child abuse and neglect apply to parents, custodians, and others who care for children. Depending on the circumstances, child abuse can result in misdemeanor or felony charges.

If you know of or suspect that your child has been the victim of abuse at the hands of a parent or close relative, the caring attorneys at the J&Y Law Firm can help you gain a protective order. If an institution or its employees is responsible, we can file suit against the abuser and obtain compensation for medical treatment, pain and suffering, and other damages. We handle cases in Northern and Southern California. Contact us here or call (888) 806-6722 for a free consultation.