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HALIFAX, Pa. (AP) — Three emaciated young children were locked inside a room like "caged animals" with no heat and little food, and two of them risked death from abuse and neglect when police and child welfare investigators arrived at their home in mid-December, authorities said.
A Halifax Township couple have been charged with aggravated assault, false imprisonment and related offenses. Joshua and Brandi Weyant are jailed in Dauphin County on $1 million bail each.
Investigators suspect the couple stopped feeding and caring for the children in September, according to court documents.
Court records do not list an attorney for the couple who could comment on the charges.
In a police interview, Brandi Weyant allegedly blamed her husband for the abuse. Joshua Weyant denied abusing the children but said he didn't want them "overfed," a police affidavit said.
The children told authorities they were locked in their bedroom at night, pounding on the wall to be let out to use the bathroom, but relieving themselves when no one came, Pennlive.com (http://bit.ly/2hJSln8 ) reported.
When authorities showed up, the children, a 6-year-old boy and two girls, ages 4 and 5, were underweight, their skin was caked with animal hair, dirt, feces and urine, and they "reeked of a strong odor similar to that of caged animals," the affidavit said. All of them showed signs of physical abuse.
The 6-year-old weighed about 27 pounds, while the 5-year-old weighed 23 pounds and was so lacking in abdominal fat that her internal organs risked collapse, according to court documents.
A doctor told police that had the children not received medical treatment, it's likely the two older siblings would have died within days or a week "as a result of the physical abuse and neglect they received in their home," police said.
Brandi Weyant told authorities on Dec. 20 that Joshua told her not to feed the three children or "she would get in trouble," the affidavit said. She said she wanted to give up the children to people who could care for them, but her husband wouldn't allow it.
She said she became ill and bedridden in September and did not care for the children, but "made assumptions that the victims were fed."
Confronted with Brandi Weyant's allegation that he told her not to feed the children, Joshua Weyant told police, "We feed the kids in order," the affidavit said.
"He later states that he didn't want the children overfed," the affidavit said. "He states that the house always has food and there is never a shortage of food in the house."
Both defendants denied physically abusing the children.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 2.
Joshua Weyant faces unrelated child sexual abuse charges from 2013, according to court records.
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