The mother and stepfather of six Massachusetts children who were the subject of a missing person search for hours this weekend after a sibling reported child abuse faced a judge Tuesday.
Authorities announced Monday that Jameaka Conway and Cypher Great, both 37, had been arrested on charges including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a child under 14. Conway's mother, 58-year-old Deborah Conway of Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, was also arrested on two counts of kidnapping and endangering a minor by a relative and one count of intimidation of a police officer.
Dangerousness hearings were held Tuesday for Jameaka Conway and Great. Conway appeared virtually via Zoom, while Great was in the courtroom.
Police responded last Wednesday to a report of child abuse. Conway's 13-year-old daughter told investigators her mother and stepfather had abused her and her seven siblings.
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After being brought in on charges, prosecutors with the Essex County District Attorney's Office say Conway and Great would not tell authorities where to find their children.
The Haverhill Police Department asked for the public's help Saturday finding six of the couple's kids, aged 7 months to 9 years. Later that day, police said the children had been located.
Prosecutors said in court that in one incident, Conway allegedly hit three of her children, between the ages of 6 and 9, and herself with a wooden stick. Great then allegedly hit one of the couple's children with a shoe.
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Deborah Conway, who is scheduled for a dangerousness hearing of her own on Monday, is accused of trying to hide the children, prosecutors said in court Tuesday.
Jameaka Conway's defense attorney, Courtney Joy, argued that the allegations stem from accusations made by a teenager rebelling against her parents' authority.
Joy said a series of texts show she was encouraged by another person to tell her school she's afraid of her mother.
"Her daughter responded, 'Now, what if they don't believe me?' And he said, 'Just hit yourself with something and say she did it. I did it to my mom and now I stay with my grandma,'" Joy said.
Relatives of Conway told NBC10 Boston the charges against her have no merit.
"She's a teenager, she wants to do what she wants to do," relative Lisa Conway said of the 13-year-old.
"In 17 years, my cousin's has never had a DCF case open," said Nicole Conway. "She's been employed all her adult life. Her and her husband just bought a home."
Jameaka Conway has been charged with five counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a child under 14, assault and battery, intimidation of a witness and threatening to commit a crime. Great was charged with four counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a child under 14 and a charge of threatening to commit a crime.
The judge found both defendants to be dangerous, setting bail with requirements that they stay away from the children and adhere to GPS monitoring. Conway's bail was revoked pending an ongoing matter out of Peabody.
Seven of the couple's eight children are in custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), visiting www.thehotline.org or texting LOVEIS to 22522.