TUSCOLA, Texas - A Taylor County deputy's suspicions of abuse were raised when he found three children walking a dog in the middle of a highway near Tuscola at about 1 a.m. on one August day.
He would then learn that those children were running away from a parent who they say locked them in a closet without food, water, or the ability to go to the bathroom in order to punish them.
That parent, 34-year-old Deborah Anne Whitehead, is now facing felony charges of aggravated assault and injury to a child after being indicted Thursday.
It happened on Aug. 18, 2015, according to court records filed in Taylor County.
The deputy was traveling on Hwy 83 when he found the children. One of the children told the deputy that they had escaped from their mother's home after their sister fell asleep and forgot to lock the door. They said they were going to their father's house because their mother "was mean to them," according to the documents.
The deputy went to Whitehead's house in Tuscola and found a padlock on the inside of the door that the children's sister would use to confine them inside, according to a warrant.
Court documents say that the deputy discovered that Whitehead would become upset with the children and "lock them in a small closet within the residence and leave them there without food, water, or restroom facilities." One of the children, a 10-year-old boy, said he would be locked up for long periods of time and that he could hear his sister screaming when bugs would crawl on her while she was confined.
The children's sister, whose name is being withheld because she has not been charged with a crime, was interviewed by authorities and confirmed what the children had said.
The sister then told investigators that during an altercation in late March, Whitehead got mad at her and stabbed her in the hip with a knife. Authorities found the knife and noted a scar on the sister's hip where she said she had been stabbed, according to the warrant. Two of the three children said they witnessed part of the assault.
Investigators pieced together the case and Deborah Whitehead was arrested on Feb. 22 on two felony charges. She was released from the Taylor County Jail the same day on bonds totaling $30,000.
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