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Houston-area twins tell police they escaped after mom and partner were abusing them, authorities say

<i>Harris County Constable Precinct 5</i><br/>
Harris County Constable Precinct 5

By Hira Humayun, CNN

A Houston-area couple was arrested in Louisiana on Tuesday after two abused children turned up at a home early that morning near their Texas neighborhood, according to authorities and a court document.

Harris County deputies responded around 5:30 a.m. ET Tuesday to a home in Cypress for a welfare check on siblings where a woman told deputies the twins knocked on her front door and “stated that they had escaped from their mother’s house,” according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday with the Harris County District Court.

“The twin siblings were covered with bruises, were barefoot and were partially clothed. The siblings stated that they were starving,” the complaint says.

The children’s mother, Zaikiya Duncan, 40, and her partner, Jova Terrell, 27, were arrested in Louisiana, according to Ted Heap, the Harris County Constable from Precinct 5. Nick Manale, a spokesperson for the Louisiana State Patrol, said the couple was taken into custody after a fugitive traffic stop.

An Amber Alert for Duncan’s five other children — ranging from 7 to 14 years old — was canceled when they were found by the state police as was an 18-year-old male described as the children’s brother, authorities said. One child was with the couple when they were detained, Manale said.

As of Friday, the twins discovered in Texas are still in the hospital, Harris County Constable Precinct 5 spokesperson Jeff McShan told CNN.

The children were “severely malnourished” and had “lacerations on their skin consistent with being restrained with handcuff restraints,” according to the complaint, attested to by a Harris County Constable corporal who met with the twins.

The girl had a gray plastic grocery bag around her neck which she said she used as a shirt — and the siblings said they were handcuffed to a dolly in the laundry room of their mother’s house, the court document says.

According to the complaint, the children said that their mother “made them drink chemicals such as bleach, Lysol and would spray ‘easy-off’ oven cleaner in their mouths if they talked too much.”

The teenagers did not remember the last time they showered, only had access to a mop bucket containing dirty water, and had to urinate and defecate on themselves, the document says.

One of the twins said Terrell has hit and punched him, the complaint adds.

The twins said the abuse began in July, according to the court document.

CNN has not been able to determine if Terrell or Duncan have legal representation. The couple is still awaiting their extradition to Texas.

Terrell’s uncle, Alfred Terrell, told CNN on Friday, “Jova has never been involved in anything like this before and ultimately I think he didn’t know about any of these allegations,” adding that he had not been in touch with or contacted by either Jova Terrell or Duncan before or since the arrest.

According to the complaint, Duncan could face two charges of aggravated assault and assault on a family member with a previous conviction. Terrell could face charges of continuous violence against the family, it said.

The complaint says Duncan was previously convicted of cruelty to a juvenile, committed against a family member and member of the household, in October 2019.

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CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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