White West Virginia Couple Accused Of Subjecting Adopted Black Children To Slave Labor Gets Bond Increase

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Listen: There is a reason why Black people immediately grow suspicious whenever we hear about white people who exclusively adopt Black children. At best, white people adopting Black children and only Black children feels like a white savior mentality taken to an uncomfortable extreme—and resulting in Black children being used as props to present a certain “progressive”  image of the foster parents. At worst, it feels nefarious enough that we worry Black children are being put in danger. Either way, it feels exploitative, not loving.

Meet 63-year-old Donald Ray Lantz and 62-year-old Jeanne Kay Whitefeather.

In Sissonville, West Virginia, this elderly white couple stands accused of locking their adopted Black children in a barn and forcing them into slave labor.

Lantz and Whitefeather were initially arrested last October “after a wellness check led to the discovery of two of the couple’s five adopted children living in deplorable conditions locked in a shed on the Sissonville property on Cheyanne Lane,” according to WV Metro NewsTheir bond was set at $200,000 each, which they were able to post, but, on Tuesday, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Maryclaire Akers revoked that bond and more than doubled the amount in light of numerous additional charges alleging a myriad of abuses committed against all five of their Black children, ages 6, 9, 11, 14 and 16. The couple’s bond is now set at $500,000 each. Both Lantz and Whitefeather pleaded not guilty to a slew of damning 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.

From Metro News:

The indictment also alleges human rights violations, alleging the adopted children, who were black, were specifically targeted by the couple and forced to work because of their race.

Akers said it’s an indictment she’s never seen before during her time as a judge.

“It alleges human trafficking, human rights violations, the use of forced labor,” Akers said. “Human rights violations specific to the fact that these children were targeted because of their race and they were used basically as slaves from what the indictment alleges.”

This comes after concerns from Kanawha County prosecutors that their original cash bonds were obtained through trafficking profits after the couple was able to acquire the $400,000 bond money for their release from jail in February.

Kanawha County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Krivonyak had called the money posted to secure the couple’s release “contraband directly or indirectly used or intended for use” to violate human trafficking laws.

Yeah—so, it turns out that in the post-Emancipation Proclamation era, slave masters can’t use their slave labor profits to get out of jail for using slave labor. 

At the time they were first arrested, the couple claimed they had no financial income or assets, and, apparently, they didn’t realize that might draw suspicion regarding where they got the money from when they posted their collective $400,000 bond. Krivonyak stated that the couple sold an 80-acre ranch in Tonasket, Washington for $725,000 on Feb. 2, and they also sold the very home they were arrested in for $295,000. 

Besides the appearance that the couple wasn’t clear on what an asset is, prosecutors argued that even if they did come up with the funds legitimately, the intended use for the money was to traffic human beings and use them for slave labor. (You, know, that thing America did legally for roughly two and a half centuries creating a legacy a certain political party is consistently working hard to preserve by preventing the removal of Confederate monuments.) Krivonyak stated that she believes the money should be transferred to a trust fund for the children. (Almost like reparations, amirite?)

Photos of the shed the two oldest children were allegedly locked in, show what looks like a 19th-century outhouse that hasn’t seen any upkeep since slavery was legal. In fact, deputies stated that the shed had no running water and only an RV porta-potty for the children to use. Yet, in her previous statement, Whitefeather lied, describing it as a “teenage clubhouse,” according to the indictment, which also stated that neighbors “reported that the children were forced to perform farm labor and were not permitted inside the residence.”

More from Metro News:

The 16-year-old girl told deputies they had been locked in the building for approximately 12 hours and were last given food around 6:00 a.m. that day.

The children also said they were forced to sleep on the concrete floor of the shed without any mattress or padding.

Court documents stated that the 14-year-old boy had “open sores on his bare feet,” and that the children were dirty and smelled of body odor.

In addition, deputies said they found a 9-year-old girl inside the main home, and three hours from when law enforcement first arrived, Lantz came home with an 11-year-old boy.

Whitefeather came home about an hour after that and led deputies to a 6-year-old girl who had been with acquaintances from the couple’s church.

Although the cases are different, the story of the five Black adoptees brings to mind the Hart family murder-suicide, in which a white couple drove their SUV off a cliff while their six adopted childrenmost of whom were Black and all of whom were children of color—were inside. (You might remember that a fictionalized version of the story was depicted in Donald Glover’s Atlanta.) Fortunately, the story of the five children adopted by Lantz and Whitefeather hasn’t ended so tragically, but that doesn’t account for the trauma the alleged victims, in this case, have suffered if even half of what the couple is accused of is true.

Lantz and Whitefeather are due back in court on Sept. 9, for the beginning of their trial.


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Police tape at an accident scene on Ocean Drive.

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