Parents accused of intentionally starving 'unwanted' kids, had two dozen animals in home
HALIFAX, Pa. (WHP) - Three children were removed from their home in Halifax after being found emaciated and locked in their bedroom for three months, according to Pennsylvania State Police.
Police say that Brandi Jene Weyant, 38, and Joshua Ross Weyant, 33, intentionally starved their children because "they did not want them anymore."
The children, identified as JTW, age 6, SRB, age 5, and HRW, age 4, were found in their home on North River Road on Dec. 16 by police and Dauphin County Children and Youth Services.
According to PAWS volunteers and Humane Police Officer, Ron Hollister, 18 cats, three ferrets, one dog, one turtle and one rat were recovered from the home. A release stated that the animals were found in fair conditions but had a combination of fleas, intestinal parasites and ear mites.
Police say the children were frail and extremely thin with bruises all over their bodies. They also allegedly had dirt, animal hair, urine and feces in their clothing and encrusted into their skin, according to police. Police say that they smelled similar to “caged animals.”
A doctor said that when JTW and SRB were admitted to the hospital they were “approaching a dangerous and life-threatening condition,” and that if “their conditions remained unchecked for days or even a week [he] is certain that both would have died as a result of the physical abuse and neglect they received in their home.”
JTW had a severe abrasion on his right eye, which he says was caused by his father Joshua throwing him across the floor as a punishment, according to police.
SRB told investigators that her mother Brandi punched her in the face, causing her to lose a tooth, because she was caught drinking tea she found in the home.
The children told police that they were locked in their bedroom at night and that they would pound on the wall for someone to unlock the door and let them go to the bathroom, but that many times they urinated on themselves and the floor. When interviewed by police, Joshua said that she shut the bedroom door because “they would get out a lot and destroy everything.”
Police say that there was no functioning heat source in the children’s room, which had a plywood floor and no furniture or toys. The children told police that they would sleep on small cots and were given a blanket at night. The children said that they were cold and were shivering violently while police were in the home, a CYS worker gave her jacket to the children to keep them warm.
The parents’ bedroom had a space heater and the oven stove was used in the kitchen as a heat source. Police went back to the home on Dec. 21 around 1 p.m. and found that the outside temperature was 34.6 degrees, the parent’s bedroom was 68.9 degrees and the children’s bedroom was 53.5 degrees.
Investigators found hook-and-eye locks on the outside of the children’s bedroom door and on other doors in the home. Large sections of the wall in the children’s bedroom were bare and the children told police that they would peel the paint off the walls. Police were told that the carpet was removed a few weeks prior because of a bed bug infestation.
The children complained many times of being hungry while investigators were in the home and said that the last thing that they could remember eating was an apple.
The children were taken from the home and placed into custody of Dauphin County Children and Youth Services (CYS). The Weyants agreed that the children should be taken from the home, according to police.
During an interview with police Brandi said that she was “beyond grateful for investigators showing up at her door and taking the [children] from her home.”
After being taken from the home, the children were taken to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Police say that JTW weighed 27.3 pounds and was 39.3 inches tall, SRB weighed 23.1 pounds and was 38.5 inches tall, and HRW weighed 26.4 pounds and was 39.3 inches tall on Dec. 16. The children’s core body temperature was around 94 degrees when they arrived and were taken from the home, and did raise to 97 degrees when they arrived at the hospital. The doctor said that JTW and SRB showed “clear signs of hypothermia and had low heart rates which are life threatening.”
Investigators say that health records show that it had been years since they had been treated. Police say JTW was last seen in October 2013, when he weighed 28 pounds. SRB was last seen in May 2014, when she weighed 27 pounds, according to police. HRW was last seen in May 2014, when she weighed 23 pounds, according to police.
Investigators say that JTW and SRB were emaciated to where their ribs and spinal columns were visible. A doctor at the hospital said that all three children had experienced physical abuse, neglect of hygiene and neglect of physical needs. JTW and SRB also had severe nutritional neglect, according to the doctor.
SRB was described by the doctor as having a vacant stare and being largely non-verbal, but cooperative. The doctor also said that she was extremely malnourished and lacking any subcutaneous fat, which helps to hold her internal organs in place. The doctor says that if the condition was “left unchecked [it] could allow her organs to collapse on to one another and impact vascular functioning.” There were also bruises on her face, abrasions on her scalp, extensive scratch marks covering her body and fingernail marks on her ankle, according to the doctor.
The doctor says that SRB is the in the most severe condition of the three children and she remains hospitalized, she will be released when she shows signs of weight gain and the ability to process solid foods. She also has a “severe case of lice that has been resistant to treatments,” according to the doctor.
JTW was also lacking subcutaneous fat and had bruising, abrasions and scratch marks on his body, according to the doctor. He was released from the hospital on Dec. 21 but was readmitted the same day due to a distended stomach, which requires a nasogastric tube to treat, according to the doctor.
HRW had scratch marks and bruising on her body, according to the doctor. She was also released from the hospital on Dec. 21 but readmitted because she was vomiting up food and had a fever, according to the doctor.
She was interviewed by a child forensic interviewer, who said that she displayed “clear signs of abuse.” The interviewer said that she went to the corner of the room and sat down with her legs curled up. When asked questions she provided a blank stare and when asked if she wanted to stop she said "yes."
Investigators said that the children begged for food but when they were given both liquid and solid food they would vomit it back up, due to poor health.
The children were also infested with lice, and investigators say that they “screamed when the lice were physically removed from their bodies.”
Brandi told police she didn't believe neither she nor Joshua were the children's biological parents, despite having the same last name. Brandi also told police that she wanted the children but that Joshua did not and that he favored HRW and did not care about JTW and SRB. Additionally, she told police that Joshua gave HRW special treatment and punished the other two.
On Dec. 21, police examined the home and found a locked storage room, which Joshua told them was a tool room. Joshua unlocked the room for police and they found numerous photographs of HRW but no photos of any other family members.
Brandi told police that Joshua threatened her and told her not to feed the children. She told police that when he was sleeping or not home she would sneak the children snacks. Joshua told police that “’we feed the kids in order’” and named foods that the children would have eaten. Investigators say that the children were in “no way physically capable of consuming and holding down solid foods.” Joshua also told police that he didn’t want the children “overfed.”
Police say that Brandi told them that she repeatedly asked other individuals for help but that she never went to authorities. Brandi told police that she suggested to Joshua that they “get rid of the children,” but that he would not allow it. She also told police that “nearly everyone in the family had drug problems,” so there was not a stable environment to send the children to.
Police say that Brandi denied any physical abuse of the children and said that she never locked the children in their room. Police say that Joshua also denied abusing or neglecting the children.
Brandi told police that once the children began to look as they do now she couldn’t leave the house with them and agreed that “the world couldn’t see them as they were.” She told police that the no one outside the home had seen the children since the summer of 2016. The children did not attend school, according to police. Joshua told police that the kids did not attend school because the proper paperwork had not been completed and that he homeschooled the children.
Investigators say that 10 people lived in the home, including a 17-year-old daughter.
Brandi told police that she fell ill in August or September and remained in bed until November, but that she never consulted a physician. She told police that during this time she did not care for the children and that Joshua had told her that he was caring for them and she “made assumptions that the victims were fed.”
Police say that Brandi told them that "things became bad for the family" in March 2016 when Joshua came back after spending time in jail. Joshua was released from jail, after posting the $75,000 bail, in December 2015. He was charged with rape of a child, unlawful contact with minor - sexual offenses, corruption of minors and indecent assault of a person less than 13 years of age from an incident in September 2013. Two of the charges, rape and unlawful contact, were withdrawn and the corruption and indecent assault charges were waived. According to court papers, he spent one month in jail.
When police asked Joshua who to blame for the condition of the children he said “’I’m not pointing the figure at nobody.’”
Both Joshua and Brandi have been charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, false imprisonment, unlawful restraint and endangering the welfare of children. Both are in prison in lieu of $1 million bail.