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Deputies visited Sissonville home on two previous occasions | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey | #hacking | #aihp


CHARLESTON — This week’s discovery of two children locked in a shed at a Kanawha County home has landed those two children along with three others in the custody of West Virginia’s Division of Child Protective Services.

The adoptive parents of all five children, Ronald Lantz and Jeanne Whitefeather, face charges of felony child neglect.

Although neighbors said Child Protective Services had been contacted with concerns about the children, the agency was unable to confirm if that were true. MetroNews asked agency leaders if they had been called to the home on Cheyenne Lane in Sissonville at any point prior to Monday’s intervention by Kanawha County Sheriff’s deputies. The official agency response was the wording of state code.

“WV Code 49-5-101 prohibits the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) from providing any information on children.”

“The role of DHHR’s Child Protective Services (CPS) is to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect when the allegations are against a parent, guardian or custodian. Child safety is paramount in all CPS investigations. Additional information can be found in DHHR’s Child Protective Services Policy.”

Delegate Amy Summers, R-Taylor, is chair of the House Health Committee and also serves as chair of the Health and Human Resources Accountability Committee. She indicated lawmakers get a similar response as they inquire about such matters.

“I think they’re being honest because they really do need to evaluate all the processes that went forward. When they were called, what did they find, did they follow protocol as they were supposed to? I think it does take a little bit of time,” she said.

Summers added lawmakers need to be more connected to those situations than the present law allows.

“We feel like we need to have more oversight than we are allowed in statue so we’re going to change that,” she said.

Summers said she expected the matter to be discussed at the next interim committee meetings and believed it would result in legislation to be presented to the regular session next year.

“We’re going to propose a bill that allows a special investigation committee out of our Legislative Oversight Committee so that we can be made abreast of what’s going on,” she said.

The special investigation committee would be privy to more information about specific cases, but would also be bound under the same constraints of confidentiality as the agency to protect children involved.
WVMetroNews reported Wednesday that Kanawha County sheriff’s deputies visited the home on two previous occasions.

“Prior to this major incident, we did go and visit the property on two other occasions for similar complaints,” Sgt. Josh Lester of the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday.

Neighbors who spoke to MetroNews said Child Protective Services had been called “numerous times” and nothing was done.

According to Lester, deputies responded to both previous complaints, one in May and one in June, which made similar claims about the treatment of the children. Lester said the May call claimed the children were outside at all hours of the night.

Deputies were told when they checked on the family there was a plumbing issue in the house and the family was using an outdoor toilet while waiting to get the plumbing fixed.

“Each time they went out there, they were able to lay eyes on the children, the deputies didn’t find anything that was not normal,” Lester said.

The June caller also claimed the family was abusing or neglecting the children.

“Another set of deputies went out, made contact with the parents, they were able to lay eyes on the children and talk to the children. They were inside and had eaten dinner, so there was again nothing that was substantial and there was no issue,” Lester said.

The third call was Monday and a deputy again went to the home to follow up and made the discovery that led to the current investigation and charges of child neglect against Lantz, 63, and Whitefeather, 61. They are in jail on $200,000 bail each.

Deputies found two teens locked in a room in a shed and a third youngster — estimated to be 5 or 6 — in a loft in the house. Lantz and Whitefeather were not there at the time, but returned while deputies were still on scene.

Deputies then learned the couple had two more adopted children who were not present. One child was with one of the parents when they arrived at the home Monday; the second was found with a babysitter. According to Lester, all five are now in the custody of Child Protective Services as the investigation unfolds.

Neighbors told MetroNews the family had moved into the home several months ago. Lester said it was unknown how long they had been at the location. A van parked on the property had license plates from the state of Washington.

“When I went back and looked at these calls to see what kind of prior history we had, the complaints weren’t coming in until the end of May. I think at that time people even said, ‘… these people are new to the neighborhood,’” he added.

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