Thu. Jul 25th, 2024
alert-–-donald-lantz-and-jeanne-whitefeather,-the-white-west-virginia-couple-accused-of-forcing-adopted-black-children-to-work-as-slaves,-fled-across-country-after-cps-probe-into-‘threatening-kids-with-bullwhip-and-gun’Alert – Donald Lantz and Jeanne Whitefeather, the white West Virginia couple accused of forcing adopted black children to work as slaves, fled across country after CPS probe into ‘threatening kids with bullwhip and gun’

The white couple accused of forcing their adopted black children to work as slaves and live inside a locked barn fled their longtime home state to escape growing scrutiny from authorities there, DailyMail.com can reveal. 

Donald Lantz and his wife Jeanne Whitefeather abruptly sold their ranch early last year following probes from the sheriff’s office in Okanogan County, Washington, and  Child Protective Services who were threatening to remove their oldest son from the home, sources say. 

DailyMail.com has obtained a half dozen police reports giving more shocking details – including how two of their children ran away from home, and they allegedly forced one of them at gunpoint to stay in his room while using a bullwhip for punishment.

The family moved to Sissonville, West Virginia, 15 miles north of Charleston, the state capital. When they arrived, Lantz immediately complained that the barn was too close to the road and he was unhappy at the lack of privacy, according to one neighbor.

They were arrested there, months after the relocation, after their five children were found locked in a dilapidated shed after allegedly laboring on surrounding farmland.

Both were charged with child abuse. Prosecutors in Kanawah County say that the couple targeted the children – aged 16, 14, 11, nine and six – because of their race and that they were ‘used basically as slaves’.

The couple appeared in court in June to face upgraded charges, including human trafficking of a minor child, use of a minor child in forced labor, and child neglect creating substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death.

Lantz, 63, and Whitefeather, 62, had lived in the small rural town of Tonasket, Washington, just 20 miles from the Canadian border, since 2019, purchasing the 80-acre Big Rock Ranch to raise five children they’d adopted.

According to Darren Wise, a local real estate agent who became a family friend, the children were from inner-city Chicago and ‘more or less a family unit’.

‘That’s why Jeanne and Don elected to take all five of them and provide them with a life they never would have gotten where they were,’ Wise told DailyMail.com Wednesday. 

‘They bought this home here as their forever home to raise these kids and bring them up in the country.’

The couple home-schooled the children, Wise said, and built an extension to one of the properties on-site to serve as a makeshift schoolhouse. The kids only periodically reported to an actual school building, sources said.

‘They just knew that this would be a big change for the kids,’ Wise said in explaining the decision to keep their kids home. ‘They’d been in the public school system in the past and not had good experiences. 

‘Jeanne was going to stay home and work on that until the kids got involved in the community and felt comfortable going to school.

‘You pull them out of the inner-city of Chicago and you throw them on an 80-acre place in the middle of more or less nowhere, it’s going to be quite a shock,’ he added.

The family lived on a sprawling property in a town of just 1,000 people, with their main house situated behind a hill and not visible from the roadway. 

But neighbors told DailyMail.com that they’d occasionally see the family emerge from behind the hill. 

The kids would be seen lining up on a daily basis to use an outhouse out front and carrying 5-gallon buckets to water a new swath of trees. 

The family also had numerous animals including sheep and dogs. According to Wise, Whitefeather was also in the early stages of breeding wallabies. He said her husband had worked fighting wildfires.

Issues with the family soon came to the attention of law enforcement, starting in 2020 when Whitefeather called 911 to report her elderly mom having an emotional breakdown while performing chores.

Then problems with the family arose.

On July 4, 2022, Lantz called 911 to report that his daughter had run away 24 hours earlier, upset because she’d been grounded. The dad told police his daughter knew nobody in the area, was afraid of the dark and probably in hiding. She was reported found the next day.

That November 1, police were called to a local hospital where the eldest son, in his early teens, was having a meltdown. When officers arrived, the dad was seen pinning his son to the floor after he purportedly ‘freaked out and tried to run out,’ the police report states.

Two days later, the same son accused his parents of abuse, telling hospital staff that ‘they lock him in the bedroom with a bucket to use for the bathroom.’

The teen also accused his parents of physically abusing his sister. That triggered a call to police and a CPS referral. But the boy was promptly discharged to his family because there were no inpatient bed available, the report states.

The deputy later stopped by the ranch, where the mom explained that the boy was receiving therapy for mental issues, but that ‘with puberty coming on it has gotten worse’.

Whitefeather told the deputy that her other children were scared of him coming home.

Still, she wouldn’t let the officer see the son’s bedroom, claiming her husband wouldn’t let that happen ‘because the other kids are sleeping’.

Quizzed further about their living arrangements, the mom told the deputy, cryptically, that ‘they have ample food and they are ready for a big economic crash’.

Later that same month, the older boy, reportedly wearing a ragged old jacket over a t-shirt on a freezing night, ran away across a snowy field to a neighbor’s property where he called police.

He claimed that he’d had a fist fight with his dad and been grounded for ‘speaking back to mother.’ He also revealed that there were weapons in the house, and that his mom waved a gun at him when he tried to leave his room, the records show.

The boy also told police that his mom wouldn’t let him phone for help when he required medical attention and needed to increase his medication.

Despite the crisis, the deputy wrote in his report that ‘I found him to be mentally competent for his age’ and he ‘didn’t suspect mental health issues’.

One of those neighbors, however, told DailyMail.com that the boy made some startling remarks.

‘It was pretty strange,’ the woman recalled. ‘He told us he was grounded because he’d insulted his mother. He didn’t say how he insulted her, but he did say why. 

‘He said it was because she had demons in her and he wanted to help get them out. He said he was part of a group online that believes the demons could change them into animals. He said he was becoming a lion.’

‘He said his voice was sore because all his practice roaring to become a lion,’ she added. ‘I didn’t really address the lion situation, just talked more about whether he was afraid of demons.’

As the boy was taken to the hospital, the deputy drove to the ranch. He reported that nobody answered the door, and the lights were off, on a property littered with broken down cars. He left a card, only to be told afterwards that family had been home at the time.

The deputy also phoned a CPS investigator who said the boy was ‘known to have hallucinations’.

The officer told the investigator: ‘I was in the process of assessing whether he needed to go into protective custody,’ his report states.

Later that night, Lantz purportedly told the officer that his older son had ‘assaulted his wife and the other children’, and that they were all afraid of him returning home.

The dad said that because of this, his son had ‘been separated from everybody’ and was ‘now living in an apartment detached from the main residence,’ the report states.

The officer sought to inspect the apartment for ‘signs of neglect.’ After initial resistance, the dad let him in.

‘I saw the apartment and noticed it was heavily monitored by cameras at every available corner, including (the boy’s) bedroom,’ the officer observed.

He also noted the room was mostly empty with ‘little to no entertainment,’ but said there was nothing to indicate the unit was unsafe.

The boy was discharged from the hospital the following day, though the deputy didn’t understand why.

‘The details of the decision were not clear to me,’ the deputy reported.

The officer acknowledged that ‘at the time, no criminal matter exists’ but cautioned that ‘due to another juvenile running away from the residence in the last two months, I found the pattern concerning and believed it was a matter that needed to be looked at in further detail’.

Six weeks later, on February 2, the CPS case investigator called police again, this time to report another concerning revelation. The boy during a recent session told his therapist that he’d attacked his mother in October with a piece of wood ‘because he was being hit with a bullwhip’.

The CPS agent also dropped other bombshells. She said the boy may be ‘bipolar and schizophrenic,’ and is being ‘singled out and targeted’ by his parents, living by himself upstairs in a garage.

The CPS investigator added that ‘multiple times he has been caught eating out of the garbage at school and never appears to be full’.

The investigator pointed out that the parents and children have been uncooperative with their fact-finding efforts.

‘The parents are very anti-authority and very much against having the children talked to or people coming into the house,’ the child welfare worker is said to have told the officer.

‘I asked (her) if she had enough to file for a court order to remove’ the boy, and she said she didn’t ‘at this time,’ the officer wrote in his report.

The CPS worker said she’d need to make a more detailed assessment of the home, but that she was concerned because there were firearms in the house and the dad carried a pistol.

The next day, Feb. 3 the CPS worker stopped by the house again, but it was locked. She then reportedly approached the children at their school, but got nowhere.

‘She stated all the children had refused to speak with her and told her that she was evil,’ the officer wrote.

‘I told (the CPS worker) that there was not much left we could do on the law enforcement end of things,’ the officer reported, and said the worker also ‘was going to continue with her investigation and speak with her supervisor to figure out what to do next.’

Within weeks, Lantz and Whitefeather put their home on the market.

‘That was why they exited in the manner in which they did, because they knew they weren’t going to get a fair shake,’ Wise, the realtor friend, told DailyMail.com.

‘The treatment they got from the state of Washington drove them out,’ he continued. ‘And the last few times they were at Behavioral Health, Jeanne was fearful that they were going to take (her son) away, and she did not believe that was the best thing for him. She just wanted help in managing his illness so he could stay with his family and stay with his siblings.’

The CPS declined to comment when reached by DailyMail.com.

Okanogan County Sheriff Paul Budrow told DailyMail.com that he was ‘shocked’ to learn through the news media of the couple’s arrest in West Virginia.

‘They were on our radar, but not to the level they just got arrested for, that’s for sure,’ he said Wednesday.

The sheriff said that as far as he knows, authorities in West Virginia have yet to reach out to local authorities to inquire about the family’s time in Tonasket, however he anticipates that might happen as the case there progresses.

‘You would have assumed because of the seriousness of the crime that they might call me,’ the sheriff told DailyMail.com. 

‘But I never got that call.’

He also doesn’t know if child welfare officials in Washington shared any information with their counterparts in West Virginia when the family moved.

‘If the Okanogan Department of Children’s Services had an open case and knew the family moved to West Virginia, they should have passed that information on to Children’s Services in West Virginia to make sure that didn’t fall through the cracks.’

Still, Budrow defended his county’s actions in dealing with Lantz and Whitefeather, stating, ‘A case like this is the reason they do what they do.’

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