HAVERHILL, MASS. (WHDH) - A mother and stepfather facing charges in connection with a child abuse investigation and several children who went missing over the weekend appeared in court Tuesday, a matter of days after the children were found and placed in the care of the Department of Children and Families on Saturday night. 

The Essex County District Attorney’s office announced a series of charges on Monday, including five counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a child under 14 for the mother, Jameka Conway, and four counts of the same charge for the stepfather, Cypher Great.

The children’s grandmother, Deborah Conway, has also been charged with charges including two counts of kidnapping and endangering a minor by a relative. 

Speaking on Tuesday, Jameka Conway’s cousin, Nicole, said “there’s never been abuse” of the couple’s eight children, who range in age from seven months of 17-years-old.

Court records show, on May 5, Jameka’s 13-year-old daughter lied about going to a park. According to documents, Jameka’s daughter accused her mother of grabbing her hair and knocking her glasses off. 

“When the victim went to reach for her glasses, she alleged the defendant punched her with a closed fist, causing her nose to bleed,” Assistant District Attorney Cal Skeirik said this week. 

The daughter also alleged Great hit her siblings with a shoe in another incident, according to documents. 

In court, the defense said the couple was using discipline on the kids and revealed text messages shared days later between the 13-year-old daughter and an unidentified person. 

“She is encouraged by this person that she’s speaking to, saying ‘If you want to leave, just go to school and tell them that you’re scared of her — the mother — and don’t want to go home and then they’ll call DCF and will take you from your house,” lawyer Courtney Joy said.

Joy said the daughter responded “What if they don’t believe me?” 

“They said ‘Just hit yourself with something and say she did it,” Joy continued. 

Jameka Conway’s aunt, Lisa, also shared her thoughts, saying “My niece has never abused her children, never.”

“It’s just that her 13-year-old is saying that because someone at school told her what to do and how to do it,” Lisa said.

Prosecutors said the 13-year-old daughter reported child abuse to a school counselor. 

Conway and Great were arraigned the next day. 

Once booked, authorities said both parents were uncooperative in sharing the whereabouts of their children. The state has also accused grandmother Deborah Conway of misleading police about where the children were. 

Deborah Conway was arraigned on Monday and is expected back in court next week. 

(Copyright (c) 2024 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox