A man recently arrested on allegations of sexually abusing his 12 children is also suspected to have been running a cult.
Melford Warren Jr, 43, was detained by authorities in Florida after fleeing from Washington state. He fathered his 12 children with two women, and allegedly raped, starved and beat the kids.
The children were rescued in a police raid on a woodland campsite in Ellensburg, Washington, last September. A Kittitas County deputy was originally called to the campsite after reports of unattended children there, and later described feeling like there was "some kind of cult activity" going on there. Warren fled the scene before he could be apprehended by police.
The two mothers, Amanjot Jaswal, 28, and Shannon Smith, 41, have been accused of child mistreatment, and detectives have also said they sought to protect Warren.
“The nature of the family relationship is not well defined by the actors involved,” court papers said, according to SeattlePi.com. “Shannon and Amanjot admitted to bearing Melford’s children, but refused to describe him as their husband or boyfriend.”
The papers also said that the children had very unusual names, and that some referred to Jaswal as “the breeder.”
The alarm was first raised last August, when Jaswal’s 14-month-old baby suffered from a broken arm. But detectives did not have enough evidence at the time to blame the injury on Warren, with Jaswal claiming it had been an accident.
A month later, the police conducted the raid on the campsite, and the children were taken in to the care of Child Protective Services. Reports say they initially refused to speak with adults unless the eldest boy gave them permission.
This seemingly changed, however, and on May 15, Warren was charged with child rape based on the allegations of two of the girls. On May 7, the two girls had reportedly spoken up; one alleged that she had been raped by him on the day of the police campsite raid, while the other said Warren broke her arm because she couldn’t read.
Court papers allege that the children were frequently locked in the bathroom for days and were not fed properly. Warren is now also accused of causing the injury to Jaswal’s 14-month-old by throwing the baby on a couch.
“It’s one of the worst cases of abuse we’ve ever seen,” a sheriff’s spokesman said, according to Daily Mail.
Warren was arrested by federal marshals last Thursday in in Miami. He is being charged with first-degree child molestation, second-degree assault of a child, and two counts of first-degree rape of a child.
Warren is currently being held in a Miami-Dade County jail and is awaiting extradition to Washington. He is likely to be held on a bond of $5 million, Daily Mail reports.
Jaswal and Smith pleaded not guilty to the child mistreatment charges in court. They are expected to return to court on June 19.
Photo Credit: Miami-Dade County Jail