Search for missing Texas kids leads police to Baton Rouge; suspects awaiting extradition
BATON ROUGE - Two people suspected of taking a group of children from Texas are awaiting extradition in the East Baton Rouge Parish jail.
The search for the children, who were reported missing in Houston, led Baton Rouge police and Louisiana State Police to a parking lot just off LSU's campus late Tuesday afternoon.
An Amber Alert was issued for the Houston area Tuesday after five children were reportedly taken by their biological mother, 40-year-old Zaikya Duncan, and her boyfriend, 27-year-old Jova Terrell. The children's 18-year-old brother, Jamerian Robinson, was also said to be with the family.
Terrell and Duncan were being held in the EBR jail as fugitives. A spokesman for the Harris County Constable Ted Heap said they could be returned to the Houston area by Thursday.
According to Harris County deputies, two of Duncan's children escaped from their Texas home Monday afternoon. The 16-year-old twins flagged someone down and had them call the police. When law enforcement arrived, the teenagers told deputies they had been handcuffed inside the home but been able to escape.
Deputies noted the twins were malnourished, bruised and unable to say which house they came from because they hadn't been outside recently. They were taken to a hospital and put under CPS custody.
When deputies went to the house, Duncan, Terrell and the five other children were gone, prompting an Amber Alert in Harris County, Texas.
Louisiana State Troopers spotted Duncan's car hours later, just off LSU's campus and stopped the car near the intersection of Nicholson Drive and E. Boyd Drive.
Officials said Duncan and Terrell only had one child in the car when they were taken into custody. The suspects told officers they brought the four other children to a family member's home, and Louisiana state troopers found them safe a short while later.
Duncan and Terrell were arrested and will be transferred back to Harris County to face charges of first-degree injury of a child.
Court records also show Duncan was arrested a decade ago for child cruelty in Baton Rouge after her son — who was 5 years old at the time — was taken to an emergency room after his teachers noticed he couldn't walk straight or even sit down.
At the time, doctors said the child had burns on his genitals, feet, and back. His twin sister was also examined, revealing "unexplained bruising" on her arm and leg. Deputies then went to her home at Siegen Village Apartments, where they found a 2-year-old — who also had visible bruises on his neck and back — and 4-year-old boy home alone.
While deputies were asking the 4-year-old where his parents were, father Nicholas Menina came into the home with another 2-year-old. The mother, Zaikiya Duncan, came to the home after a doctor's appointment for her 8-month-pregnancy. The parents were separated and questioned.
According to arrest paperwork, Menina told deputies that his 5-year-old son slept on the bare floor in a locked bedroom closet. Menina said "boards were placed in front of closet doors to keep the child from 'escaping' and 'stealing' food from the kitchen."
Deputies noted Menina said the 5-year-old girl and 2-year-old boy slept on the bare closet floor in the master bedroom.
According to notes, there were two empty beds in the home.
Both Duncan and Menina were arrested for cruelty to a juvenile and DCFS took custody of all six children at the time.
Duncan pleaded guilty to the charge, had to take a parenting class, and was put on probation, which was completed in 2020.