A Vancouver couple accused of locking their two adopted teenagers in a bedroom with no electricity and beating them with a stick when they tried to take food is facing charges of assault and unlawful imprisonment, police say.
Vancouver police allege Jeffrey and Sandra Weller removed the interior door knob from the bedroom shared by their 16-year-old twins seven months ago, according to court documents obtained by FOX 12 Oregon. The bedroom also has an alarm and a window with a lock on it, and the twins aren't allowed to leave their room other than to complete chores and occasionally eat, police say.
When the twins are caught taking food without permission, police allege they're made to lie on the kitchen floor with no pants and they're struck repeatedly with a wooden stick. Investigators say the assaults happened, "at least once a week and have occurred for several years." They also describe one incident where the teenage girl was hit with the stick about 20 times.
FOX 12 caught up with the couple as they arrived home Tuesday.
"No one likes to be falsely accused," said Jeff Weller before walking inside. The couple declined to comment on the allegations they face.
In interviews with police, the Wellers told officers that their son and daughter hoard food and that they must keep the food locked up so they don't eat it all. Police, however, described the twins as having "very thin statures."
The Wellers also told police that they had to remove the electrical outlets from the twins' bedroom because one of the teens would play with the outlets otherwise.
Police and Child Protective Services workers first visited the Wellers' home Oct. 7. They launched an investigation based on what they found at the home that day, says Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp.
Officers went back to the home five days later, and based on interviews and evidence at the home, they arrested the Wellers.
"It just blows me away," said neighbor Dimitry Makhanov. "I can't imagine."
Neighbors told FOX 12 they long suspected something wasn't right because of what they describe as constant yelling and fighting at the home.
"I'm sure most of the neighbors, at some point, have called in a domestic disturbance," said Makhanov. "It's not a peaceful home."
Makhanov's family members said the problems appeared to be escalating recently.
"It seemed like we heard more fighting," said Yullya Makhanov. "The kids would be out late at night, all hours of the night, and we'd see them outside; the parents yelling at them."
Neighbors describe seeing the twins complete chores, such as weeding and mowing the lawn, at odd hours of the day and night.
"It just breaks my heart. I wish something could have happened a lot earlier," said Makhanov, who wonders whether authorities could have stepped in sooner. "I'm sure there's a lot of psychological damage that's going to last for a long time."
A spokesman with child welfare investigators told FOX 12 they've received past referrals on the Wellers dating back years. This latest investigation was prompted after one of the twins spoke to an adult mandated reporter about the alleged abuse, according to a spokeswoman.
The couple's first court appearance was last week, and a formal arraignment has been set for Oct. 27 at 9 a.m. They're facing five counts of domestic violence assault and two counts of unlawful imprisonment.
The children have been placed in protective custody; four in foster care and two with relatives, according to CPS.
The Vancouver Columbian newspaper first reported on the arrests Tuesday.
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