CYPRESS, Texas (AP) — A teenager who told Texas police that he and his twin sister were handcuffed and endured horrific abuse escaped their family’s home after he found a handcuff key and hid it in his mouth, authorities said in court records.
The twins, barefoot and holding handcuffs, were seen on doorbell video as they sought help in a Cypress neighborhood, just outside Houston. The video, obtained by Houston TV station KHOU, showed the teens walking door-to-door about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday as they sought help.
The boy was shirtless and the girl was wearing only a plastic grocery bag around her neck as a shirt, according to an affidavit.
The woman who let them inside told Houston TV station KTRK that the teens told her: “We are not here to hurt you.”
“She was shaking with her handcuffs,” the woman, who was not named in the story, said of the girl. “She was like, ‘We are looking for help. We just need help. We just broke out of our handcuffs. Our mom had us handcuffed in the laundry room.’”
Their mother, Zaikiya Duncan, 40, was arrested hours later in Louisiana after police issued a missing children alert for five other children. All seven children, including the twins, are now in Child Protective Service custody, authorities said.
The 15-year-old twins were severely malnourished and told police that abuse had been occurring for months, the affidavit said. They told police that Duncan handcuffed them, forced them to drink bleach and other household cleaners and also sprayed oven cleaner in their mouths “if they talked too much,” the affidavit said.
The twins also told authorities that they were forced to eat and drink feces and urine, according to the affidavit.
The neighbor, an intensive care unit nurse, said she photographed the teens’ injuries and called police.
The girl “was complaining that she couldn’t even close her hand because her hand just felt so tight and swollen from her trying to tug and pull off the handcuffs,” the woman said.
Duncan is jailed in Baton Rouge and awaits extradition on charges of aggravated assault. Her live-in boyfriend, 27-year-old Jova Terrell, also faces an assault charge. It wasn’t known whether either had an attorney and they are expected to be extradited to Texas within 30 days, KTRK reported.
This story has been updated to correct member attribution about the planned extradition to KTRK.