KSBW and The Associated Press report that a woman who was charged with the brutal beating and starvation deaths of her 6-year-old nephew and 3-year-old niece has pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of torture. Tami Joy Huntsman entered her plea in court on Wednesday, admitting the deaths of the children were in fact intentional. As part of her plea agreement, prosecutors will seek a life sentence instead of the death penalty. Prosecutors also say that the plea agreement will spare the victims’ older sister from testifying at trial.
The older sister was found cold and starving in the back seat of an SUV in December 2015 at the age of 9. She had suffered broken bones and told investigators that Huntsman and Curiel had been neglecting and abusing them since being placed in their care.
Huntsman took the children in after their mother was killed in a car wreck and their father was sentenced to prison.
The sibling also told police that the couple killed her younger brother and sister on Thanksgiving after she was caught stealing a bagel, according to court documents.
The boy and girl were starved and abused for months by Huntsman and her boyfriend, Gonzalo Curiel. Curiel has also been charged with two counts of murder and two counts of torture. The bodies of the children were discovered in a storage shed in December 2015 by police, stuffed in a plastic bin.
The couple’s joint murder trial was originally set to begin March 5. Prosecutors have been pushing for a date as early as possible because they plan to call several child witnesses to the stand. However, the judge delayed the trial until October 15 for Huntsman and April for Curiel. Curiel will then stand trial as an adult. He was only 17 at the time of the murders, but is now 20. Juveniles are not eligible for the death penalty in California.
*Photo credit KSBW