A white couple from West Virginia have been accused of child neglect after allegedly forcing their adopted black children to work as ‘slaves’ and locking them in a barn.

Donald Ray Lantz, 63, and Jeanne Kay Whitefeather, 62, pleaded not guilty at Kanawha County court on Tuesday to multiple charges, including human trafficking of a minor child, use of a minor child in forced labour, and child neglect creating substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death, according to local news outlet Metro News.

They also face allegations of human rights violations, over specifically targeting black children and forcing them to work because of their race, Metro News said.

Kanawha County circuit Judge Maryclaire Akers claimed that the children were “used basically as slaves”, citing what the indictment alleges.

The couple were first arrested in October 2023 after a wellness check led to the discovery of two of the couple’s five adopted children – aged six, nine, 11, 14 and 16 – living in inhumane conditions at a property in Sissonville.

In a previous statement made to the court, Whitefeather alleged that the barn where the 14 and 16-year-old were found in was a “teenage clubhouse” and denied that they were locked in.

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A nine-year-old girl was found inside the main house before Lantz came home with an 11-year-old boy and later, Whitefeather returned with a six-year-old.

Their bail has been set at $500,000 each, up from the previous amount of $200,000.

A trial date for the couple has been set for 9 September.