Couple charged with child neglect
By Tim MacVean
ELKINS – A man and his wife were arrested Wednesday and accused of locking their children in their bedroom and only feeding them once a day.
Richard Keith Lambert, 42, and Tonya Elaine Lambert, 43, both of Beverly, were each arrested on two felony counts of child neglect creating risk of injury. Randolph County Magistrate Rob Elbon set bond for each of them at $50,000 cash only.
According to the criminal complaint, Cpl. B.A. Talkington of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office received a call through the Randolph County 911 office regarding a runaway juvenile – the Lambert’s son.
Talkington contacted Tonya Lambert by phone to take the initial complaint before meeting her at her residence in the Beverly Mobile Home Park, the complaint states.
Talkington asked Lambert if she was home when her son left the residence. She told Talkington “she was at work and that her husband, Richard Lambert and (another son) were home,” then she “called Richard on the phone and asked him to come outside and bring (their other son).” Once Richard Lambert exited the home he showed Talkington a court paper and said, “Just so you know what kind of kids you’re dealing with, they are always in trouble and stealing,” the report states.
Richard Lambert then handed Talkington a handwritten statement that said, “They have been steeling (sic) from me all summer, here’s a list of the food they have stolen from me in the last month!” according to the complaint.
Talkington wrote he asked the son that was with Richard Lambert to sit in his cruiser so he could ask him about his brother. Talkington said the boy “appeared to have sunken eyes, and gray skin, and (was) very skinny.”
He asked the boy why his brother had left the home and he “hesitantly replied, ‘to find food by going door to door or walking to the soup kitchen in Elkins,” the complaint states.
Talkington then acquired a clothing description of the missing juvenile from the boy before leaving the scene and requesting that 911 contact the on-call Child Protective Services employee.
The CPS employee contacted Talkington, who did a “referral based on the appearance of (the boy at the home) and the fact that a (missing juvenile) felt it necessary to run away from home to get food,” according to the complaint.
Later in the same day, Talkington located the missing juvenile and noted his appearance was similar to his brother, with the same sunken eyes and gray skin. Talkington asked the juvenile if “he was doing ok or if he was hurt,” and the boy replied “I’m OK.” Talkington then asked why he ran away and he said, “I got into trouble and I knew dad would take away my meal for the day,” the complaint states.
Talkington asked, “You only get to eat once a day?” The boy replied, “Yes, unless I get in trouble and then I get it taken,” Talkington wrote.
The Lamberts arrived on the scene while Talkington was speaking with the juvenile and Talkington told them “it was going to be a few more minutes,” before getting into the cruiser and calling the CPS employee to update her on the case, police wrote.
Cpl. A.G. Vanscoy and Deputy R.K. Foster responded to the home with the CPS employee. Upon arriving at the scene, officials discovered three juveniles were all sharing a room with “a 5 (foot) to 6 (foot) wooden door with a latch on the outside,” and that “there was a cow bell attached to the outside of the door,” according to the complaint.
Vanscoy described the room to Talkington as “a jail cell, equipped with two mattresses in the floor and a toilet in the middle of the room.”
During interviews with the juveniles by the CPS employee, it was revealed the parents used “nutritional deprivation” as punishment – if the juveniles “got in trouble, they were not allowed to eat.” According to the criminal complaint, at the time of the interview, two of the juveniles had not eaten in more than 48 hours.
According to the interview with the juveniles, the parents would lock them in their bedroom as punishment and at one point, “Richard removed (two of the juvenile’s) blankets as punishment,” and “later came back to the room and found (the juveniles) with their knees to their chests in a huddling position,” so he “yelled at them and punched them both in the chest.”
The juveniles were removed from the home by CPS the same day as the interview, according to the complaint.