Invisible Children

4 Children of John and Margie Cantrell

Content note: Case narratives include descriptions of severe violence inflicted on children, including abuse and neglect, sexual violence, torture, and murder, as well as mentions of suicide and domestic violence. They also include photos of victims and perpetrators of violence.

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
Lake Brenda, Tyler, Texas


Documents: Date:
Foster dad of alleged sex club victims arrested 06-20-2008
New foster father for famous sex-scandal children arrested 06-23-2008
Small Texas community reels from sex abuse of children hidden in plain sight 06-24-2008
A Child-Sex Ring in East Texas 08-22-2008
Across The Line 04-00-2009
Another turn in the Mineola Swingers case 11-08-2013
Foster parent of Mineola sex ring victim accused of abuse 11-09-2013
Foster Mother Whose Children Testified in the “Mineola Swingers Club” Case Now Accused of Abuse 11-11-2013
4 children in Mineola ‘Swingers Case’ placed with new foster parents 11-12-2013
Foster parents of Mineola sex-ring victims reach agreement in court 11-12-2013
ETX attorney: New allegations could exonerate Mineola Swingers Club defendants 11-13-2013
CPS takes custody of children 11-20-2013