🔴A SWAT team was present when the three adults were arrested in Middle Township

🔴They face assault and weapons charges

🔴Officials say the adults and children are related

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — Three adults were charged in connection with the alleged physical and mental abuse of five children between the ages of nine and 15.

Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey H. Sutherland said Irene Becica, 71, Thomas Becica, 57, and Christina VonColln, 45, were arrested at their home on Goshen Road in Middle Township on Dec. 8 with the assistance of the Cape May Regional SWAT team. All are family members, according to the prosecutor's office.

They were charged with five counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child and five counts of third-degree aggravated assault. They were also arrested on a fourth-degree unlawful weapons possession charge.

Thomas Becica was released following a detention hearing in Cape May County Superior Court. Irene Becica and VonColln were detained, and are being held at the Cape May County Correctional Center.

Abuse with belts, fly swatters and medications

According to the complaint and affidavit in the case obtained by New Jersey 101.5, the children were all girls aged 15, 14, 13, 12 and nine.

Two of the girls, ages 12 and 15, still lived in the home. The three other children had previously been removed from the home by the Department of Children and Families' Child Protection and Permanency office.

The alleged abuse was first reported by a partial care program called Acenda. They treat youth ages eight to 17 “exhibiting behavioral, emotional, or social impairments that disrupt their academic or developmental progress or put them at risk of psychiatric hospitalization," according to its website.

The girls still living in the home said their grandmother, Irene Becica, physically abused them with back scratchers, paddles, belts and fly swatters, according to the affidavit. Those items were found in the home by investigators after the warrant was served.

VonColln and Irene Becica burned one of the girls with a lighter, according to the affidavit. “Bruising, burns and scars” were later found on the bodies of the girls, the affidavit said.

All three adults increased the dosage of the girls' medications to make them “zombie and ghost like," according to the complaint. The 15-year-old also told detectives she ran away from home due to abuse.

The prosecutor asked anyone with information about this ongoing investigation to call the Special Victims Unit at 609-465-1135.

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