"There was very little in the way of a normal upbringing," Deputy Scott Wilson tells PEOPLE
Credit: Miami Dade County Jail

Melford Warren Jr., the Washington father of 12 who’s accused of beating, starving and raping his children as part of a cult, was using his kids for “physical and sexual abuse purposes,” police tell PEOPLE.

“There was very little in the way of a normal upbringing,” Deputy Scott Wilson, of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, says.

The case is one the worst he’s ever seen. “We have seen similar incidences but not on a scale as large as this,” Wilson adds. “Never one that involved this many children who were the product of this one man.”

The investigation into the 43-year-old Warren and his two lovers, Amanjot Jaswal, 28, and Shannon Smith, 41, began last August after a 14-month-old girl was brought to a local hospital with a “non-accidental” broken arm, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.

The child’s mother, later identified as Jaswal, refused to allow the girl to be X-rayed, claiming that “she feared the radiation might prevent her daughter from being able to have children someday,” the document states.

The hospital notified Child Protective Services about the injury; CPS in turn contacted the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office since the family lived in their jurisdiction. Deputies with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office paid a visit to the home east of Port Orchard, where they “were met with a lot of resistance,” Wilson says.

Warren fled the house to escape the officials, jumping out of the second-floor window and injuring himself in the process.

Wilson says they made “multiple trips” back there and soon discovered the property had been vacated. “When they left we had no idea where they went,” he says.

It turned out the family had headed into Kittitas County, where they made camp. After a citizen reported seeing children left unattended at the campground without food or shelter in September, police arrested Warren on a warrant issued in Maryland and took the seven children there into protective custody, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE. Detectives on the scene expressed concern that there was “some kind of cult activity/behavior going on.”

“Two little girls taken into custody would sit off to the side on a curb just rocking back and forth,” the document states. “The children were overheard referring to Amanjot as ‘the breeder’ and that when police would come to their house they would ‘hide in the roof.’ ”

Wilson praised the Kittitas County deputy who initially stumbled across the children. “The deputy was savvy enough to realize something wasn’t right here,” he says. “He contacted social services, and a number of the kids were placed in foster care.”

Warren, meanwhile, was released after authorities in Maryland declined to extradite him. He disappeared.

But then his children began to speak out about the abuse that happened, giving the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office what they needed to charge Warren themselves. “It was quite revealing, the level of abuse that was taking place,” says Wilson.

Two of the 12 children, ages 10 and 9, were interviewed by authorities on May 7 according to court documents, and they shared horrific stories of abuse.

“Her father would hit the children with sticks and bats, put them in cold water and punch them,” the documents state one child revealed. “She indicated that he hit her with a bat and threw her against a wall. She said another time her father had burned her hand with a lighter.”

Children interviewed also discussed extreme sexual and physical abuse and related a story of Warren putting what one child believed to be a real gun to the side of her head, pushing it so hard that she began bleeding, according to court documents.

It was enough to convince a judge to issue a warrant for Warren’s arrest on various child rape charges. He was finally arrested in Miami Beach on May 21. Wilson says Warren will likely face more charges as police continue their investigation.

His two lovers were arrested on the same day on charges of criminal mistreatment. “If others were involved, it has yet to be determined,” says Wilson.

The women lived together with Warren “off and on,” adds Wilson. “They periodically split up and went their separate ways and then got back together.” The one thing they did keep doing was “cranking out babies with no overwhelming means of support,” which Wilson says is a sign of fraud.

“I don’t know if anyone was collecting unemployment or living off welfare,” he explains. “You can probably assume there was probably some fraud involved here.”

For his part, Warren is fighting extradition. “He knows what he is facing when he gets here,” says Wilson, adding that if the case crosses state lines, it could be “handed over to the feds.”

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