Four children—Sheryl* (age 16), Harlan* (13), and Callie* (10), along with their 16-year-old uncle—were emotionally and physically abused by their foster parents, John and Margaret “Margie” Cantrell. The children were frequently “homeschooled”—that is, kept home from school as a form of punishment while Margie claimed to be homeschooling them.
The children had been removed from the home of Shauntel Mayo, the mother of three of them, and her boyfriend Jamie Pittman, due to neglect. In 2005 they had been placed with the Cantrells, who had raised more than 30 children including their three biological children. Shortly afterwards, Margie Cantrell went to the authorities with reports that the children had disclosed ritual sexual abuse in a swingers’ club in Mineola, Texas. After 7 people were tried and convicted in the case, in 2008 two of the Cantrells’ former foster children from California came forward to allege sexual abuse by John Cantrell.
The abuse came to light in 2013 when the children’s 21-year-old foster sister, who still lived in the home, reported it to social services, who removed the children from the Cantrells’ home. Sheryl and the 16-year-old boy alleged that she had been slapped, punched, and pulled by the hair and that he had been “spanked with a wooden back scratcher so hard that it had broken.” The children were forced to sleep in an unheated garage and the food pantries were kept locked. The children had not seen a doctor while in the Cantrells’ care. Three other former foster children reported that Margie was controlling and manipulative and would yell at the children and brainwash them into believing stories she made up. These allegations threw the conclusions of the 7 Mineola cases into doubt.
*Not their real names
Date: October 28, 2013
Location: Lake Brenda, Tyler, Texas