Abuse investigation leads to 2 dead children in storage unit

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A child abuse investigation led to the bodies of two young children inside a commercial storage unit in Northern California, along with a starving, injured 9-year-old at a house about 140 miles away, authorities said Tuesday.

A woman and her teenage male companion were identified as suspects in the deaths after the bodies of the 3-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy were found last Friday at the storage facility in Redding, police said.

Homicide detectives were investigating, and autopsies were planned for Wednesday. The children's names were not released.

The investigation began with a call about a possible child abuse case in the small Northern California town of Quincy.

On Friday, authorities found the starving 9-year-old at a Quincy home, according to a news release from the Plumas County Sheriff's Office. The unidentified girl was taken to a hospital. No details on her condition were available Tuesday.

Sheriff's officials later arrested the 39-year-old woman and the 17-year-old boy on abuse allegations related to the 9-year-old. Each remained jailed Tuesday on $1 million bail. The two were being held on suspicion of felony child abuse, torture and mayhem.

The Redding Police Department said the two are suspects in the deaths of the boy and the girl found in the storage unit. Redding, a city of 91,000, is located 300 miles north of San Francisco.

The department also said it has identified two children who were in the pair's physical custody and who are missing. But the department said it has yet to determine if they are the same children found dead Friday.

The two traveled to several cities in Northern California between November 27 and December 11 and stayed at a motel in Dunningan, California on November 28, Redding Police said.

Attorneys Douglas Prouty, who represents the 39-year-old, and Robert Zernich, who represents the teen, both declined to comment. The Associated Press typically does not identify abuse victims; it is not naming the teen or the woman because their relationship to the children is unclear.

The investigation then led authorities about 140 miles northwest, to the Redding storage facility where they found the bodies. A woman who answered the phone there Tuesday declined to comment.

Redding Police Lt. Pete Brindley wouldn't say whether the two children were killed in the storage unit or elsewhere.

Meanwhile, south of San Francisco, authorities searched a home in Salinas, where the teen and woman recently lived. They did not say whether they found anything.

Social services had investigated the 39-year-old and her family within the last year for general neglect, said Elliott Robinson, director of social services for Monterey County.

Robinson's office filed the death reports for the two children found in Redding. He declined to comment further.