2 plead not guilty to deaths of kids found in storage unit

AP News
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Posted: Jan 27, 2016 6:40 PM

SALINAS, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California couple accused of severely abusing and killing two young children whose bodies were stuffed in a plastic bin and left at a rented storage unit pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

Tami Huntsman, 39, and her 17-year-old boyfriend are charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of a 6-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl whose remains were found in December at the business in Redding.

The couple also are charged with abusing a 9-year-old girl, who was found starving and with broken bones in the back of an SUV. She was hospitalized for several days and is expected to recover physically from her injuries.

Huntsman attorney Kay Duffy declined to comment, telling reporters outside of court that she was just assigned the case. The teen's attorney, Jeremy Dzubay, also declined to comment.

The three victims were siblings and in Huntsman's custody, living with her, the teen and her three biological children in Salinas. Investigators believe the children were killed in Salinas due to sustained physical abuse and neglect.

The rest of the children were placed in foster care.

Authorities responding to a "welfare check" request found the 9-year-old in the locked SUV on Dec. 11 and arrested the couple in the apartment where they were staying in Quincy.

The remote Northern California city is 300 miles north of Salinas, and authorities believe the couple and children had recently relocated to Quincy after living for years in Salinas.

Two days after the arrests, authorities say the teen told investigators about the two bodies at the storage unit about 140 miles northwest of Quincy. A coroner believes the children died shortly after Thanksgiving Day.

The murder charges could result in the death penalty for Huntsman if convicted. The 17-year-old is too young to face capital punishment, even though prosecutors have charged him as an adult.

Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo said he will decide later whether to pursue the death penalty for Huntsman.