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Children found starving, chained and abused in Monterey County home


By Julia Reynolds

SALINAS -- Three children were rescued from a Monterey County home last week after deputies discovered that two women -- one a former correctional officer -- had starved, chained and abused the children, officials said Friday.

Sheriff's deputies rescued the children from the couples' residence on Russell Road near Salinas on March 14, citing horrific conditions and an 8-year-old girl who looked "like a concentration camp victim," said Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller.

Also in the home were two boys, ages 3 and 5.

Miller said Eraca Dawn Craig, 31, and Christian Jessica Deanda, 44, are accused of felony child cruelty, false imprisonment and other charges.

Deputies conducted a welfare check at the house after the children didn't show up for an unspecified appointment, detectives said.

They found the children, who were home-schooled, living in squalid conditions and "fairly dire straits," Miller said.

The girl appeared to have been the most abused, deputies said, though all three had bruises and other marks and appeared to be malnourished.

Officers said they found signs the girl had been chained to the wall about 4 feet above the floor and said she may also have been held in a closet. It appeared she had been shackled at times at the ankle and at other times by a collar around her neck.

Miller said it appeared she had "hardly eaten for months."

The girl and a 5-year-old boy were adopted, he said, while a 3-year-old boy is the biological son of one of the women, who are domestic partners.

The girl was immediately hospitalized for around five days, he said, and appeared to be "very traumatized."

"It was a particularly heinous case," Miller said, adding that it appeared the women were preparing to leave the area before they were discovered.

"It seems that the little girl was the major target of this abuse," he said.

Miller said when children are rescued from terrifying conditions, they're not usually "jumping up and down in joy. They may have forgotten what joy is like."

Law enforcement's description of the scenario stands in marked contrast to the women's online business profiles.

Posting as Cristian Deanda-Craig on LinkedIn.com, Deanda wrote about her cactus nursery in New Mexico: "I am currently in a place that makes me happy both personally and professionally. I left me (sic) job to be home with my kids. I loved gardening and soon found myself selling flowers to neighbors. So my partner and I started our business -- the best decision ever! I enjoy watching my kids grow and my flowers!"

Under previous jobs, she lists work as an HIV prevention case manager at John XXIII AIDS Ministry in Salinas from 2001 to 2004, and later as a psychosocial therapy manager at Valencia Counseling Services in Estancia, N.M.

Deanda was also a program manager at a transitional housing facility for men in Gallup, N.M., according to the profile.

Craig, whose profile is listed under Eraca Craig-Deanda, earned a bachelor's degree in auto mechanics management from Hartnell College in 2013, according to the site.

Before that, she was a detention officer at the Navajo County Sheriff's Office in 2005-2006 and a corrections officer at a New Mexico corrections facility from 2006 to 2010.

More recently, her occupation was listed as auto mechanic.

Neither woman appears to have a criminal record in Monterey County.

Asked why his office took so long to announce the arrests, Miller said officials were still investigating the case and wanted to wait until after the women were charged by the District Attorney's Office and arraigned.

They were arraigned in Monterey County Court on Tuesday and are being held at Monterey County Jail.

They are scheduled for a preliminary hearing on March 28.

2014 Mar 21