The deaths of Boyd and Nissa Mae Warren's three children have been ruled a murder-suicide, but the North Carolina couple are facing charges for the squalid conditions in which they allegedly lived.
Boyd Warren, 43, and Nissa Mae Warren, 41, were arrested Tuesday at their Kenly home, where the bodies of their three teenage children were found shot to death on July 26. The parents were each charged with misdemeanor child abuse and storing firearms in a manner accessible to a child.
If convicted, they could face a maximum of 120 days in jail for each offense. They are scheduled for a court appearance on Sept. 6.
"The defendants unlawfully and willfully did, being the parent of Bradley Kyle Warren and Brandon Keith Warren, both children were less than 16 years of age, did create or allow to be created a substantial risk of physical injury upon those children by other than accidental means," the arrest warrant said.
Investigators determined that 14-year-old Brandon Warren shot his 13-year-old brother Bradley and 19-year-old sister Marnie before shooting himself. A .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle was found lying between Brandon's legs, with the barrel pointed toward his head.
"This has truly been a tragic incident due to the loss of three precious lives from our community," Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said. "Common sense tells us these adults were not the parents these children deserved.
"As parents, we've all got a responsibility to raise our children in as best a situation as we can afford," he added. "A lot of things come without a price. Right is right, and wrong is wrong."
Previous Abuse Convictions
According to a report in the Charlotte Observer, state Social Service inspectors recently warned the parents that if they didn't clean up their home, they could lose their children. The boys had been spending nights with a neighbor for about two months.
The charges against the parents came after investigators questioned the family's only surviving child, 21-year-old Ellis Warren, who left home six years ago but came to the memorial services for the three children on Saturday.
This is not the first time Boyd and Nissa Mae Warren have faced child abuse charges. The two were convicted of felony child abuse in Mesa, Ariz., in 1991. That investigation began when a neighbor reported seeing bruises on Marnie's legs.
The couple had a "dysfunctional" family, according to court records, and the children were warned that they should cover the bruises from their beatings so their friends and neighbors wouldn't see them.
When the investigation into the deaths began, Bizzell said there was no evidence that the children had been mistreated, but authorities described a squalid scene inside the family's mobile home. They said the house was strewn with trash and animal feces
Neighbors described the children as appearing happy and polite, but little seemed to be known about them or their parents. The superintendent of the Johnston County school district said the two boys were being home-schooled and were not enrolled in classes.
Nissa Mae Warren found the bodies of her three children and called police. In the first days of the investigation police described the Warrens as being cooperative and grief-stricken.