After an eight-month investigation, 43-year-old Melford Warren Jr., father of 12 children, has been arrested for allegedly beating, starving, and raping his children as part of a cult.
According to Scott Wilson, of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s office, the case surrounding Warren is “one of the worst cases of abuse we’ve ever seen.”
“These children were held against their will, denied nutrition, denied medical care, and physically and sexually abused.”
A deputy initially became concerned after reports of unattended children at a local campsite. Warren was not present, detectives say, because he was raping one of his 12 children in the woods nearby. The deputy just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was “some kind of cult activity” going on at the campsite, where deputies found lots of children but no parents, no food, and no shelter.
Warren fathered the 12 children, who range in age from infant to 13, with two women who were staying with him. Shannon Felicia Ann Smith, 41, and Amanjot Kaur Jaswal, 28, were also investigated as authorities became more and more suspicious. Police say that the three of them lived in a home east of Port Orchard, Washington, with their shared children.
When pressed by authorities to define their relationship with Warren, neither women would describe themselves as wives or girlfriends. Instead, they referred to themselves as “breeders.” The two women face misdemeanor charges for child neglect since they simply stood by while Warren abused their children.
Court papers show that Warren threw his toddler daughter against the couch, which broke her arm. When taken to the hospital, Jaswal refused to allow the child to have an X-ray, saying she feared that the radiation may cause her daughter to become infertile.
Police spoke with Warren about the child’s broken arm at the time, but there was not enough evidence to charge him with assault at that time.
After that incident, Warren gathered up his family and fled the county for the campground. Seven of the 12 children were taken into custody when found unattended, and Warren was later arrested when two of his daughters bravely stepped forward to report the abuse.
Police said that, initially, the children were very suspicions of law enforcement and actually seemed to be trained to avoid police. None of the children would even speak to authorities unless the oldest boy said that they could do so. Fortunately, at that point, one of the little girls reported that Warren had raped her on the very day she was taken into custody by the Department of Social and Health Services. Another said that Warren often beat her because she did not know how to read yet.
All the children said they had never been to a school or seen a dentist.
Warren has been charged him with first-degree child molestation, second-degree assault of a child, and two counts of first-degree rape of a child. He is being held on $5 million bail and has not yet entered a plea. His two companions have pleaded not guilty.
A cult is defined as a “religious or social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices,” and they often hide leaders who abuse vulnerable members within the group. Click here to read about a fugitive cult leader who was recently apprehended in Brazil while trying to flee multiple child sex abuse charges.