The Murders of Shaun Tara & Delylah Tara

Shaun Tara and Delylah Tara

The remains of Shaun Tara, 6, and Delylah Tara, 3, were discovered in a storage unit in Redding, California. Tami Huntsman, 39, and her boyfriend Gonzalo Curiel, 17, were convicted of the torture and murder of the two young Tara children, along with the torture of a third older child who survived. Due to her age, investigators referred to her as F.T., 9.

The Backstory of the Tara Children

Shaun Daniel Tara, and Vivian Saucedo were the parents of F.T., Shaun, and Delylah. In December 2013, Vivian Saucedo, 31, was killed in a vehicle accident. Shaun Tara, 31, continued to raise the couple’s three children until he was incarcerated in 2014. Shaun Tara arranged for his cousin Tami Huntsman to care for his three children while he was in prison. At the time, Tami Huntsman lived with her husband Chris Criswell, along with their oldest son, Daniel, and a set of pre-teenage twins. A friend of Daniel’s named Gonzalo Curiel started hanging around their Criswell home. At one point, Huntsman, 39, and Curiel, 16, began a sexual affair. When Criswell discovered his wife’s affair, he left the marriage. In January 2015, Curiel officially moved in with Huntsman. Shortly after, the oldest son, Daniel, was arrested and sent to jail. This left Huntsman, Curiel, the twins, and the three Tara children in the household.

During 2015, child protective services were notified four different times regarding possible child abuse in the Huntsman household. Despite the investigations, the police found no evidence.

The Discovery

On or around November 26, 2015, Thanksgiving weekend, after months of starvation and physical abuse, Huntsman and Curiel beat Shaun, 6, and Delylah, 3 to death. They took the bodies of the two children, sealed them in a large plastic tote and placed them in a storage unit in Redding, California. The family abruptly moved around 100 miles away to Quincy, California.

Within a month of moving to their new location, neighbors called police on December 11, 2015, after noticing a young girl locked in a vehicle in freezing temperatures. The girl clearly appeared hurt and in distress.

When police arrived, they knocked on Huntsman’s door to do the welfare check. The officer verified that the occupants of the household appeared in good health. He asked if there were any more children that lived at the residence. Huntsman reluctantly directed him to the vehicle in the driveway, stating that the girl (F.T.) had developmental disabilities and liked to spend time alone.

When the officer found F.T., it was obvious she was a victim of severe child abuse. F.T. was rushed to the hospital where it was discovered that she had broken bones, including her arm and shoulder. She also had a broken collar bone, broken fingers, missing teeth with a dislocated jaw, obvious malnourishment, several open sores, and significant bruises all over her body. She weighed approximately 40 pounds (half the recommended weight) and she was infested with lice. Emergency surgery was performed on F.T and she became a ward of child protective services. Huntsman and Curiel were arrested for child abuse of F.T. Tara.

When the news of Huntsman was broadcasted, an extended relative contacted the local sheriff’s office. She inquired about the location of Shaun and Delylah Tara.

The Investigation

When investigators learned of the existence of Shaun and Delylah Tara, they immediately began searching for their location. Detectives began inquiring around Salinas, CA, where the family had moved from and learned from the neighbors that the Tara children did exist. Around the same time, detectives were able to speak with F.T., the older sibling who was still recovering. She was able to relate the series of events and the levels of physical abuse that all three Tara children had endured. F.T. was able to describe where the strange smelling plastic tote had been left. Based on all the information that detectives had gathered, they questioned Huntsman until she finally confessed to what she had done and where the remains of the Tara children could be found. The information that she supplied was part of a plea deal for life in prison instead of the death penalty. Detectives were able to locate the storage facility in Redding, CA that Huntsman had rented on December 4, 2015, which was approximately 150 miles from Salinas. Detectives discovered the remains of Shaun and Delylah Tara. Fingerprints from the container were processed and determined to belong to Huntsman and Cruiel.

The Arrest and Conviction of Tami Huntsman and Gonzalo Cruiel

Initially, Huntsman and Curiel were arrested and charged on December 11, 2015 for the child abuse of F.T.. Those charges expanded on December 18, 2015, when the remains of Shaun and Delylah were discovered. During the trial of Huntsman, prosecutors described the conditions in which the three Tara children lived. “”The children were locked in a dark, cold, cement bathroom, often without their clothes, for hours or even days,”

Survivor’s Testimony

During the trail, the surviving child testified (via closed-circuit TV) about the abuse she and her siblings endured. F.T. recalled being beaten with belts, punched, kicked, starved, and stripped naked for hours or days. She also stated she and her siblings were often zip-tied to their beds or chairs.

F.T. recalled a vicious beating she endured; she was locked in the bathroom and tried to leave through the window. Curiel caught her and beat her; he broke her forearm and shoulder, which she never received medical attention for. During another beating, Huntsman and Curiel broke her jaw and fingers.

For Thanksgiving, Huntsman and Curiel received a box of food, but would not give any to the children. F.T. attempted to steal a bagel but was caught. This lead to the beating that would claim the lives of Shaun and Delyalh.  

Prosecutors stated F.T, “Jane Doe remembers a severe beating in the bathroom, at which point she saw Shaun and Delylah unable to walk, talk, or open their eyes. She overheard an argument between Curiel and Huntsman that night in which Curiel said it was all his fault and that he should just leave. Huntsman begged him to stay. Jane Doe never saw her brother or sister alive again.”

The Sentencing of Tami Huntsman and Gonzalo Curiel

Tami Huntsman pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances, two counts of torture in the deaths of Shaun and Delylah, Huntsman further pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse, one count of torture, and two counts of conspiracy in the abuse of F.T., the surviving child. According to the plea agreement, Huntsman waived all of her rights to any appeals or writs. Huntsman was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, three additional consecutive life sentences plus an additional nine years. The sentence ensured that Huntsman would never leave prison. She was sent to Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, CA to serve out her sentencing.

Despite Curiel being 17-years-old at the time of the abuse and murders, the court determined that he be tried as an adult. Gonzalo Curiel’s trial began on April 2, 2018. At the end of the trial on April 23, 2018, it took the jury an hour and a half to find Curiel guilty on all counts which were listed as the same as Tami Huntsman. His sentencing hearing was on June 29, 2018, where he was given two life sentences without the possibility of parole. California judicial law, however, states that because Curiel was a minor at the time of the crimes, he will be allowed to go before the parole board in 2040; 25 years from the time of his initial sentencing. The district attorney’s office has stated that they will prepare a very thorough file for the district attorney that is in office at that future time of 2040.

The Aftermath

Shaun Aiden Tara and Delylah Grace Tara were laid to rest together in Bellevue Memorial Park in Ontario, California.

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