Two malnourished teen siblings in Texas escaped from handcuffs at their home this week when one of them found the key in his mother’s purse and hid it in his mouth until it was safe to flee, according to court records.
The 15-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, said they were handcuffed in a laundry room. The boy who found the key to the restraints said they waited to make their escape until their mother and her boyfriend were sleeping, according to court documents filed in Harris County.
Deputies with the Harris County Constable Precinct 5 office were called to a home in Cypress where the teens had fled to about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, the court records say.
“The twin siblings were covered with bruises, were barefoot, and were partially clothed. The siblings stated that they were starving,” the court records said.
The documents allege the teens had faced months of abuse beginning in July at the hands of their mother, Zaikiya Duncan, 40, and her boyfriend, Jova Terrell, 27.
The constable's office alleges the teens were subjected to abuse that included being forced to drink bleach or having oven cleaner sprayed in their mouths if “they talked too much,” having bleach poured on their skin, including on their genitals, which caused burning. The teens were also beaten with extension cords, curtain rods and metal poles, according to court records.
The records said that there is probable cause for Duncan to be charged with aggravated assault and aggravated assault on a family member with a previous conviction.
Terrell, the court records said, could be charged with continuous violence against the family.
After authorities found the teens, it took the constable’s office hours to figure out which home they fled from because the siblings had only recently moved there, a spokesman with the constable’s office said this week. When deputies finally went to Duncan and Terrell’s home, they were gone. An Amber Alert was then issued for five more of Duncan's children, ages 7 to 14.
Louisiana State Police said the couple was detained during a traffic stop in the Baton Rouge area Tuesday afternoon and arrested on fugitive charges out of Harris County.
A juvenile was in the car with the couple, state police said. Five other children who were dropped off at a relative’s house near Baton Rouge were later identified and accounted for, police said.
The constable’s office in Harris County said the siblings’ 18-year-old brother may have also gone missing with the couple. His whereabouts were not clear. It was unclear if the fifth person dropped at the relative's house was the 18-year-old brother, authorities said.
The condition of the children who were taken to Louisiana was unclear Friday. Child welfare officials in Louisiana declined comment. Child welfare authorities in Texas did not respond to a request for comment.
It was also unknown Friday if Duncan and Terrell had retained attorneys.
Jeff McShan, the spokesman for Harris County Constable Precinct 5, said Friday that the couple was jailed in Louisiana and were expected to be extradited to Texas to face charges, although he was unsure when that would happen.
ABC affiliate KTRK of Houston reported Thursday that Duncan and Terrell appeared before a judge in Louisiana and are being held without bond.
The court documents out of Harris County said the twin girl had an old injury that included an orbital fracture and her hands were deformed and swollen. The twin boy’s left forearm was fractured from an older injury, court records said.
The report also said the teens suffered abuse from starvation. They told investigators, the court documents said, they were fed between one to three times a week — mustard sandwiches, relish sandwiches, or bologna sandwiches. They were also forced to “drink water from the water supply valve used for the washing machine,” the records said.
According to the court report, the teens were also forced to drink urine and eat feces.
The teens said they don’t remember when they last showered, and only had access to a “mop bucket containing dirty water and when they needed to use the restroom, they would have to urinate/defecate on themselves,” court records said.
Duncan was convicted in 2019 of cruelty to a juvenile by child desertion in the 19th Judicial District Court of East Baton Rouge Parish in Louisiana, court records said.