VANCOUVER, Wash. -- A Vancouver, Wash., couple is accused of imprisoning their adopted twins and only feeding them once a day.
Jeffrey and Sandra Weller have been charged with five counts of second-degree assault and two counts of unlawful imprisonment.
The twins, who were home schooled, have been placed in protective custody.
Sandra Weller's former husband and legal parent of the twins Tim Graf said he had to fight for more than seven years for custody of his children. But after financial problems last year he had to give up custody.
"I have no doubt that all the charges are true," he said."
Graf said after a visit last week they looked like they were being well cared for in their foster homes."
Court documents say the two 16-year olds were emaciated and the parents restricted their access to food, keeping all food under lock and key and letting the children eat only small amounts, usually only once a day.
KGW learned Wednesday that State Child Welfare workers had investigated the home on previous occasions, but every time, the young victims denied the abuse.
Court records showed that the Wellers had a troubled home. The kids were caught in the middle of a nasty divorce and custody battle. The twins, adopted and of Filipino descent, were often the targets of racist remarks.
State files show, starting in September of 2004, Child Protective Services got 8 referrals about the twins. Complaints included worries over their low weight, being left home alone, medical neglect and fears of physical abuse.
The twins denied the abuse but eventually, changes in the investigation system revealed conditions that prosecutors were describing as "torturous."
The teens eventually talked to detectives. They said that when they would steal extra food they were severely punished, including being both forced to lay on the kitchen floor with no pants or underwear while being struck repeatedly on the buttocks with a wooden spoon, often resulting in bleeding. The teens told police this abuse took place on average once a week, and had been going on for several years.
"You could tell they were neglected...really skinny," said neighbor Colleen LeFever. "It was sad to watch."
The teens also said the interior knob on their bedroom door had been removed from the bedroom they shared, preventing them from leaving the room. Police also found an alarm installed on the door and a lock on the window. Court documents report that there were no lights in the room and all electricity to the room had been cut off. Someone in the family had to let them out for them to leave the room they shared.
Within the past month, after an incident where the 16-year-old boy 'stole' food, court documents indicate that Jeff Weller punished the 16-year-old twin sister first by beating her 20 times with a wooden stick and then, while the girl was on her hands and knees, by strangling her.
In the court documents, police reported filthy living conditions in the home and refrigerator and pantry locked, with the keys held by Jeff Weller.
"There's been a lot of police activity around their home for years," another neighbor told KGW. "I hope those kids get some love...because they need it."
The officer who interviewed the couple said they blamed the locks and filthy conditions on the children, and explained the children's skinny stature as due to them being Filipino.
The couple is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 27.