After an eight-month investigation, Washington man Melford Warren Jr. was arrested this week for allegedly perpetrating “one of the worst cases of abuse ever seen” by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.
According to court documents obtained by The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Warren is charged with first-degree child molestation, second-degree assault of a child and two counts of first-degree rape of a child — which were all crimes committed against his 12 children. He was arrested on Wednesday in Florida and is awaiting extradition to Washington.
Authorities first began investigating Warren in August 2014 when a hospital nurse reported a suspicious injury to Warren’s 14-month-old daughter’s arm. The nurse said the child’s mother, Amanjot Kaur Jaswal, refused to allow an X-ray “because she feared the radiation might prevent her daughter from being able to have children someday.” Investigators followed up by visiting the family’s home, but no charges were brought at the time. They now believe the girl sustained the injury when Warren threw her against a couch.
The next month, police received another call about unattended children at a campsite. Upon investigating, the found a number of children, but no food or parents.
“The children’s behavior was suspicious during the law enforcement contact at the campsite,” Detective Nicole Menge said in the charging papers. “They would not speak with the adults involved with the case unless the oldest boy told them they could.”
Amanjot Kaur Jaswal and Shannon Smith in court.
One deputy reported overhearing a child refer to Jaswal and Warren’s other partner, Shannon Smith, as “breeders.” Investigators now believe Warren was raping one of his children in the woods at the time of the investigators’ visit. The Department of Social and Health Services took seven of the children into custody at the time; they have since recovered the other five.
Warren was also arrested at the time for an outstanding warrant that was issued in Maryland, but was released a short time later. No further action was taken until this month, when two of his daughters opened up to investigators about the abuse they suffered. One said she was raped by her father on the day she was taken by the Department of Social and Health Services. The other girl said Warren beat her, choked her, and threatened her with a gun because she didn’t know how to read. They said they’ve never been to a dentist or attended school. They also said their parents didn’t provide much food and often left several of the children locked in a bathroom for days at a time.
Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office told Seattle’s Q13 that investigators were horrified by the children’s stories. He added, “These children were held against their will, denied nutrition, denied medical care, and physically and sexually abused.”
Investigators believe the family was able to evade police for so long because they regularly moved. Warren is being held with a $5 million bail. Jaswal and Smith also face misdemeanor charges related to child neglect and covering up Warren’s alleged crimes. They have both pleaded not guilty.