A mom and her boyfriend have been sentenced to life in prison...another goes on trial today.
A building that once housed a daycare center and later became a "swingers' club" in Mineola, Texas turned into a house of horrors for four children who were forced to perform sex acts on others and each other.
Shauntel Mayo, 29, the ringleader of this unthinkable abuse, made her three kids (then age 5, 6, and 7) and her own 6-year-old baby sister perform sex acts if they wanted dinner. "The unthinkable," said Smith County assistant district attorney Joe Murphy. "She had her kids have sex with each other and taught them to masturbate. She taught them how to strip. She withheld food from them. All so she could make money."
According to prosecutors, the kids were groomed for sex shows in what Mayo called "kindergarten" classes. At "kindergarten," they said they learned how to strip, dance and perform sexual acts--first on dolls, then on each other. Upon "graduating" from "kindergarten," they were forced to have sex with each other in front of 50 to 100 adult members of a swingers' club once a week. Before going on stage, they were given the painkiller Vicodin -- which their abusers called "silly pills" -- to loosen them up for their performances. The children were forced to have sex with each other or perform sexual acts for club members who paid a fee to watch. Investigators believe up to 15 other children were victimized, and are still trying to locate them.
According to the Associated Press, the police department first investigated a complaint in June 2005 in which the siblings' foster mother said one of the girls described dancing toward men and another child said that "everybody does nasty stuff in there."
"We learned to strip (at 'kindergarten')," said the 7-year-old. " I had to touch my privates with my sister's and brother's privates for the people in the club."
The mother of the three siblings and her live-in boyfriend have already been convicted in the case and were sentenced to life in prison. A third person goes on trial today to face charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child, tampering with physical evidence and engaging in organized criminal activity. Four others are awaiting trial.
The siblings, who have been adopted and have gone through intense therapy, are now doing better, the welfare agency said. However, the man who gained permanent custody of the children, John Orville Cantrell, 64, of Mineola, was arrested last week for aggravated sexual assault of a child on a California case from 18 years ago.
His wife, Margie Cantrell, who has been a foster mom for 36 years, said Thursday she believes the accusations are in retaliation for their roles in the Mineola sex ring case. "What John and I want to do is continue to seek justice for the kids in this case," she told the Tyler Paper. "And if we have to climb a few mountains to get there, it will be worth it. And at the end of all this, John will absolutely be proven innocent."
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