Couple Accused of Using Their Adopted African-American Children as Slaves

Donald Lantz and Jeanne Whitefeather (composite image)
by ADN America Staff


In Kanawha County, West Virginia, Donald Ray Lantz, 63, and Jeanne Kay Whitefeather, 62, face serious charges after being charged with forcing their adopted African-American children to work in inhumane conditions and keeping them locked up in A barn.

Lantz and Whitefeather pleaded not guilty in Kanawha County court on Tuesday  . The charges include trafficking of minors, use of minors in forced labor and child neglect with significant risk of causing serious injury or death.

According to Sky News, the complaints also point to human rights violations for specifically targeting African-American children to be forced to work because of their race.

Judge Maryclaire Akers of Kanawha County Circuit Court expressed dismay as she described how, according to the indictment, the children were “basically used as slaves.” The situation first came to light in October 2023, when a welfare check discovered that two of the couple’s five adopted children, aged between 6 and 16, were living in inhumane conditions on a property located in Sissonville.

During the inspection, authorities found a 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl locked in a shed in deplorable conditions, wearing clothes in poor condition. Whitefeather (pictured above, right) attempted to defend himself by claiming that the barn was a “teenage club” and denied that the youths were locked up. However, a court document detailed by Metro News revealed that the children were sleeping on the cement floor without mattresses, and that one of them had open wounds on his bare feet. In the shed there was a small portable toilet with no light or running water.

Additionally, inside the main house, authorities found a nine-year-old girl, while Lantz (pictured above, left) later arrived with an 11-year-old boy and Whitefeather with another six-year-old girl. Neighbors had previously reported that the children were forced to do agricultural work and were prohibited from entering the residence.

The New York Post reported that prosecutors presented evidence that the couple moved from Washington to West Virginia after learning of an abuse and neglect investigation. In February, they sold a 32-hectare ranch in Tonasket for $725,000, and in March, another property in Sissonville for $295,000. Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Krivonyak explained that these funds were used to post the couple’s initial $400,000 bond. Given this, prosecutors requested that said funds be transferred to a trust for the children.

It was revealed in court hearings that Lantz and Whitefeather’s bails were increased to $500,000 each due to allegations that the original bail funds had been obtained through human trafficking activities.

The couple’s trial has been set for September 9. Despite pleading not guilty, the evidence and testimony presented paints a disturbing narrative about the alleged ongoing mistreatment of foster children. According to Judge Akers, this is one of the most serious allegations he has seen in his career, underscoring the seriousness of the charges the couple faces.

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ADN America Staff
Photo “Donald Lantz” by West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Photo “Jeanne Whitefeather” by West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Background Photo “Courtroom” by Christian Wasserfallen.



Reprinted with permission from ADN America.

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