• What remained unclear was the prior involvement of state child welfare workers who reportedly visited the home in the past.
Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Inside a three-bedroom home on the outskirts of an eastern New Mexico town of 1,100 people, New Mexico State Police say they discovered shocking evidence of torture, starvation, child abuse and neglect. They found wooden paddles, no running water and metal chains authorities contend kept several children confined to their beds at night to keep them from stealing food.

Seized cellphone photos and video showed graphic scenes that included two nude children in a bathtub eating spaghetti with their hands and an 11-year-old boy being beaten while chained to his bed. Alarms were attached to the chains to alert the adults of an emergency.

Prosecutors in the 9th Judicial District on Thursday filed motions to detain without bond two women who lived in the Texico, New Mexico, home after their arrests Monday on 22 felony counts of child abuse and conspiracy and a misdemeanor charge of obstructing an investigation of child abuse. A hearing is set for next Monday before state District Judge Drew Tatum of Clovis.

What remained unclear was the prior involvement of state child welfare workers who reportedly visited the home in the past.

CYFD spokesman Rob Johnson on Thursday told the Journal in an email that the agency is barred by state law from revealing information “concerning a party to a neglect or abuse proceeding.” He did say there were no foster children in the home and confirmed the children who lived there are now safe.

Asked whether the agency had received prior reports of suspected abuse or neglect at the residence, Johnson said, “Again, we cannot discuss this, due to (the) state confidentiality law …”

“CYFD and the New Mexico State Police continue to work closely together in this ongoing investigation,” he added.

State Police removed six children, ages 5 to 16, from the residence on July 22, after being asked to assist a CYFD supervisor acting on a possible child abuse report received from a third party.

Jaime Sena, left, and Jayme Kushman (Source: Curry County Adult Detention Center)

That visit, described in a 13-page affidavit for an arrest warrant, triggered a weekslong investigation that led to the arrests of Jayme Kushman, 37, and Jaime Sena, 29. Efforts to reach their attorneys on Thursday weren’t successful.

They were identified as a timid 11-year-old boy with the initials AB who was still wearing “pull up” diapers, and his 14-year-old sister, CK, who reported the times they had been chained to their bed by their ankles.

“When asked how she feels when she is chained, CK stated she is ashamed of herself, and she does not like it,” the affidavit states. She said the chaining began when she was 10, and she used “to think her mother hated her.” Her brother, AB, hurts himself and she described a time when “he broke a picture and used the glass to cut himself. She stated he got whooped that night with the paddles.”

She told State Police she stole food “because she is hungry.”

The two children were among three that Sena told State Police were Kushman’s. All three were home schooled. Court records show Kushman petitioned to become kinship guardian for two girls in 2012 and a boy in 2016.

They lived in Texico, which is about 12 miles from Clovis near the Texas state line.

Sena said she moved into Kushman’s home with her two young children in late March. She said Kushman’s 11-year-old boy “was not biological” and when he was smaller, CYFD had called Kushman asking to place the boy “under her care … AB was a child from Texas that needed a place to stay.”

The 15-year-old girl in the home, RK, said when AB “gets out of the chains, he destroyed all the food.” Sometimes, she told State Police, she and the 16-year old girl, GM, chained up the children. Sena’s children, according to the criminal charges, were also subjected to abuse.

Sena told State Police that CYFD had shown up to the residence to conduct home visits multiple times. Such visits can be announced or unannounced and information is gathered about the home environment, Johnson said.

The day CYFD and State Police arrived at the home in July, it took Kushman eight minutes and 32 seconds to allow them inside. They found the toilet full of urine and feces and noted, “there is no running water, and the sewage is backed up.” The children’s bedrooms had a urine odor, and one officer found a set of keys and padlock on a top bunk bed. State Police found a black box with a chain attached to it located on a wall and wooden paddles and a cellphone in the shed.

CYFD involvement was mentioned several times in the arrest warrant affidavit.

For instance, Kushman told State Police on July 22 that she “feels CYFD do not like her.” One of the children also reported how they would clean the house “before CYFD showed up so they would be satisfied.”

State Police officers who subsequently obtained a warrant to search Kushman’s phone found more than 1,400 videos in three-minute increments taken between July 6 of this year and July 11. The videos were found on a “SIM card” that was inserted into a camera in one of the children’s rooms. Eighteen videos showed the 11-year-old boy being chained by his left ankle secured to a bed frame. There were no sheets or pillows on the “empty old, cracked bed.” One video showed Sena walking into AB’s room, and alerting Kushman after seeing vomit on the boy’s bed. Kushman then was seen coming into the room, and “smacks AB then rubs his face into his own vomit.”

“There are multiple times these woman (sic) Kushman and Sena are (seen) torturing AB while AB is crying because he is starving,” the affidavit states. “You can listen to screams in the background of children being beaten. These videos are extremely graphic.”

Sena, in an interview with State Police before her arrest, initially denied knowing about the beating and chaining of the boy, prompting the State Police officers to tell her about the videos.

“I then continued to tell Ms. Sena not to protect Ms. Kushman as she was involved in this child abuse torture,” wrote Sgt. Gerardo Hernandez, of the State Police criminal investigations bureau, in the affidavit.

At that point Sena became quiet, and reached into her rear left pocket and pulled out a cellphone. She turned it off, and admitted she had Kushman on the line “listening to the interview because she (Kushman) wants to know about the questions being asked.”

Sena said she had been wanting to leave Kushman but “fears what she would do if she left.”