Mother beat, starved and forced kids to eat their own excrement before they made a daring escape

21 October 2022, 22:37

Suspects Zaikiyah Duncan (L) and Jovia Terrell (R)
Suspects Zaikiyah Duncan (L) and Jova Terrell (R). Picture: Harris County Constable Precinct 5

By Kit Heren

Two teenage twins held prisoner by their mother made a daring escape, after they and their siblings were beaten, starved, handcuffed, kept naked and forced to drink bleach and eat their own excrement.

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One of the 16-year-old twins, a boy, stole the key to the handcuffs from his mother, hid them in his mouth and waited for their mother and her partner to fall asleep before running away from their home in Texas.

Zaikiya Duncan, 40, and boyfriend Jova Terrell, 26, have been arrested and charged with aggravated assault.

The children, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also claim they were whipped with electrical cords, beaten with a metal rod, and made to drink bleach in the Houston home.

They added that they had to drink water from the washing machine and that Ms Duncan would make them take massive doses of Benadryl to get to sleep.

One of the children's wrists injured by the handcuffs
One of the children's wrists injured by the handcuffs. Picture: Khou

A neighbour helped them after they escaped. The woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: "Their hands were so swollen, their poor hands were bigger than the rest of their bodies."

Jeff McShan, a spokesman for the Harris County constable's office, said the children were kept naked in the laundry room most of the time.

Mr Terrell also often punched the 16-year-old boy, the twins claimed.

The children were severely malnourished when they fled the home.

They were mostly given mustard, relish or bologna sandwiches, being fed at most three times per week.

The children are still in hospital and will now probably be placed in foster care.

The children asking a neighbour for help
The children asking a neighbour for help. Picture: Khou

The horrific beatings come after Ms Duncan posted a series of apparently loving images of her with her children on social media in recent years.

In May 2021, she published a photo of her youngest son at school. "Congratulations to my Baby Boy Nicholas On all his accomplishments this school year I'm so proud of you! Second grade here he comes! Lol he is the tallest in his class!"

This is not the first time Ms Duncan has been accused of child abuse. Ten years ago a five-year-old son was taken to hospital with burns on his genitals, feet and other parts of his body. He also had bruises on his buttocks, back and elsewhere.

Doctors said the burns were probably caused by boiling water being poured onto his body.

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Police went to Ms Duncan's house, where they discovered a 20-month-old baby with his hands bound.

The injured five-year-old was routinely disciplined by making him lie in a push-up position for hours at a time, causing his hands to swell.

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He was also sometimes forced to sleep on a cupboard floor, with the doors blocked so he could not escape. Other children showed signs of abuse too, investigators found.

Ms Duncan was charged with child abuse, but the children were later returned to her custody.