CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There is now a civil forfeiture case in connection with a Sissonville couple charged with locking their two adoptive children in a shed and forcing them to work last year.

Jeanne Whitefeather (WVRJA)

Donald Ray Lantz, 63, and Jeanne Whitefeather, 62, appeared before Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Maryclaire Akers Thursday morning where the judge filed a protective order to ensure the $400,000 bond the couple previously posted stays with the state until the civil case is resolved.

There is also a criminal case against the couple who are charged with human trafficking of a minor, use of a minor in forced labor, and child neglect creating substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death. Lantz and Whitefeather have each pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Chris Krivonyek filed the motion to call on Akers to seize the bond money because it’s alleged the money came from human trafficking profits.

“The feds call it an arrest warrant in rem. It’s an arrest warrant where you arrest the thing instead of the person,” Krivonyek explained.

During Thursday’s hearing, Krivonyek called on Det. Robert Alford of the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office to testify regarding the civil case. Alford was on scene last October after a wellness check led to the discovery of two of the couple’s five adopted children living in deplorable conditions locked in a shed on Cheyanne Lane.

Donald Ray Lantz (WVRJA)

“Can you swear to the contents of the civil complaint of forfeiture as being accurate or based on information that you collected you believe the allegations to be accurate?” Krivonyek asked Alford.

“Yes, sir,” Alford responded.

The indictment also alleges human rights violations, alleging the adopted children, who were black, were specifically targeted by the couple and forced to work because of their race.

The couple each posted a $200,000 bond in February and were placed back in jail this week after the new human trafficking-related charges were filed against them.

Krivonyak had called the money posted to secure the couple’s release “contraband directly or indirectly used or intended for use” to violate human trafficking laws.

“We’re not trying to forfeiture the money without due process. We just want to protect it and preserve it until we’ve had a chance to litigate the claim,” Krivonyak told the judge Thursday.

Whitefeather’s attorney Mark Plants is fighting against the state’s claims.

Det. Robert Alford of the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office testified Thursday.

“The state’s position is that these assets were used to maintain and harbor minors in violation of the human trafficking statute. Our position is that’s not true,” Plants said.

The forced labor allegations are that neighbors saw the children working outside on the farm. Plants said that allegation alone doesn’t make it a human trafficking case.

Plants said he looks forward to their day in court where they can prove otherwise.

“My argument was simply that I wanted to be able to have a hearing and cross-examine this officer about the allegations and the forfeiture,” he said.

Prosecutors said the couple sold an 80-acre ranch in Tonasket, Washington for $725,000 on Feb. 2. Whitefeather’s brother, Marcus Hughes, posted two $200,000 bonds to release the couple from the South Central Regional Jail three days later.

On March 28, Krivonyak noted that they had sold the Sissonville home where they were arrested for $295,000.

The couple’s money will remain in the custody of the Kanawha County Circuit Court Clerk’s office pending a resolution of the civil case. Krivonyak said he believes it should be transferred over to a trust fund for the children.

Lantz is seeking a new attorney.

A criminal trial for Lantz and Whitefeather is set for Sept. 9.

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