Abused teens found locked inside shed, couple arrested

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

Despite numerous attempts, the deputies were unable to reach any family members, as reported by local news outlet WSAZ. The children revealed that they were unable to unlock the door from the inside of the barn, also referred to as a shed by investigators. The children were without any means to leave the barn independently, had no access to running water or bathroom facilities, and were evidently deprived of sufficient hygiene care and food.

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

The deputies reported that the 20×14 shed was windowless and only contained a single table and chair, with no beds or access to running water. A criminal complaint reportedly stated that there was an RV toilet placed on a black tarp on the floor, but no functioning toilet. The shed had concrete floors and plywood walls. A camera was noticed in the top left corner of the room, according to the complaint. Another minor was discovered locked inside the house, found in “an unprotected loft, approximately 15 feet high,” as per the sheriff’s office.

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

Lantz and Whitefeather were subsequently charged with felony counts of gross neglect creating a substantial risk of injury. Their bonds were set at $200,000 cash. A preliminary hearing for the couple has been scheduled for Oct. 12. The case is currently under investigation by the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigative Section in collaboration with Child Protective Services.