TAOS, N.M. (KRQE) – A former Taos teacher and his wife are accused of abusing their adopted children. The children said the physical and sexual abuse went on for years starting right after Cory and Stephanie Valdez brought them into their home. “The case in itself is a horrific case,” Undersheriff Steve Miera with the Taos County Sheriff’s Office said.

Cory and Stephanie are accused of abusing two of their adopted children. “No child should have to go through this or experience something like this,” Miera said.

According to court documents, the investigation started on Christmas Day last year when one of the children ran to a neighbor’s house and said he was tired of standing in the cold wearing nothing but a trash bag. The sheriff’s office was called, and the 12-year-old boy was hospitalized. He was diagnosed with malnutrition and refeeding syndrome. During an interview with investigators, he shared numerous accounts of physical abuse. The boy said he was forced to use the bathroom in a pickle jar, had to drink water out of the toilet, and was placed in a trashcan filled with snow.

His 13-year-old sister told investigators she was also abused. She said she was forced to take a cold shower with her clothes on and dry in her bedroom. The girl said Stephanie kicked her, tackled her, and sat on her when the girl would ask for more food. The girl also said Cory sexually abused her more times than she can remember.

Documents said both children witnessed the other being physically abused. “What I would hate to do is label anything as out of the ordinary,” Miera said. “As it is seen so many times in smaller, rural communities, there are a lot of types of these crimes that are being committed that just go unreported.”

What is even more disturbing is that District Attorney Marcus Montoya said Cory is a former kindergarten teacher at Ranchos Elementary in Taos. Montoya’s office is prosecuting both Cory and Stephanie’s cases. “It is disheartening for us to meet these children and see the photos,” Montoya said. “It gets to a point where it is infuriating because we want to protect those who are most vulnerable. Who is more vulnerable than our children?”

KRQE News 13 reached out to Taos Municipal Schools to confirm Cory’s employment but did not hear back. A judge did deny a motion for pretrial detention for Cory. Online court documents show that he does not have a criminal history in New Mexico, not even a traffic ticket.

The couple has four children. Three of them are adopted, and one is biological. All four are now in New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department custody.