Former Newington couple accused of locking adoptive children in dog crates

NEWINGTON -- A couple, formerly of Newington, is facing several charges after they turned themselves into police Sunday afternoon.

Police said Michael Thalmann, 44, and Jennifer Thalmann, 48, abused their two adoptive children from 2013 to 2016. That included failing to provide them adequate food, striking them with paddles, and locking them in dog cages as a form of discipline.

Police said the family lived on Kirkham Street in Newington, but moved in August. They currently live in Audubon, Pennsylvania.

They are both charged with two counts each of cruelty to persons and risk of injury to a minor.

DCF began an investigation into the alleged abuse in September 2015, after learning the children were stealing food at school and scouring for food in their backyard. Newington Police were notified in May 2016, after DCF conducted several interviews with both the children and parents.

In the police report, the Thalmanns admit to hitting their adoptive children with a paddle. Michael Thalmann explained to a DCF social worker that the children were put in a cage as a symbolic form of jail. The parents also admitted to calling their children "stupid," "idiot," "dumb," "moron" and "thief." They said the name calling was meant to help the children so they can become accountable and taught not to steal. The social worker that at no time did the parents refer to their adopted boy or girl as their children.

Jennifer Thalmann maintains the children were given enough to eat, although a physician expressed concerns about their low weight.

In interviews with DCF, both children said they were afraid their father would hit them with a paddle. They told DCF workers about being placed in the dog cage as punishment, as well as being called names.

Both adoptive children said the parents do not treat their youngest sibling, the couple's only biological son, the same way.

The Thalmann’s were both released on $250,000 bond and appeared in court Monday morning. They pleaded not guilty and a pre-trial date was set for November.

There is still a protective order against the couple, meaning they are to have no contact with the children.