11-year-old Adopted by West Virginia Couple; Forced to do Labour in Farm with Many Black Kids: Authorities

In a case that authorities allege was fueled by racism, a White couple from West Virginia is accused of incarcerating their adopted Black children in a barn on their property and compel them to labor, as per court documents.

Jeanne Kay Whitefeather, 62, and Donald Ray Lantz, 63, were initially apprehended in October 2023. They are now facing additional charges, including the use of a minor child in forced labor, human trafficking, and child neglect that poses a substantial risk of severe bodily injury or death.

On Tuesday, June 25, the couple entered a plea of not guilty to the allegations in Kanawha County.

Lantz and Whitefeather were apprehended after a neighbor contacted Child Protective Services to report that two adolescents were being confined to a shed at the couple’s residence in Sissonville, according to court documents. The children were also allegedly “forced to perform farm labor and were not permitted inside the residence,” according to other residents, as stated in the documents.

Deputies who responded to the scene alleged that they observed deplorable conditions, including the two children being confined to the shed with a portable toilet and no flowing water, according to the court filing. In addition, the children informed the investigators that they were compelled to sleep on the floor and had been confined to the space for approximately 12 hours, as stated in the indictment.

The outlet reported that deputies discovered a nine-year-old girl while conducting a search of the residence. Subsequently, Lantz arrived at the residence with an eleven-year-old child. According to the indictment, the investigation also led authorities to a six-year-old girl who had been in the company of individuals the couple knew from church.

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Kanawha County Circuit Judge Maryclaire Akers, citing the indictment from prosecutors, alleged that the couple also violated the human rights of their five adopted children by putting them to work, as reported by the West Virginia Metro News. It is worth noting that all of the children were Black.

The judge stated, “Human rights violations specific to the fact that these children were targeted because of their race and were used essentially as slaves from what the indictment alleges,” as reported by the outlet.

According to West Virginia Metro News, the couple is currently free on parole and their next court appearance is scheduled for September 9.

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