cali kilings
Gonzalo Curiel, 20, (R) and Tami Joy Huntsman, 42, (L) face charges of murder and torture. Police handout

A couple who allegedly tortured three children, killing two of them, may have begun beating the children because one of them stole a bagel, a court has heard.

Gonzalo Curiel, 20, and Tami Huntsman, 42, from Salinas, California, will stand trial in March and October respectively for two counts of murder and torturing three children.

The bodies of Shaun Tara, 6, and his sister Delylah, 3, were found in a storage unit, while the couple were also charged with the torture of their 11-year-old sister.

The three Tara siblings lived with their aunt, Huntsman, Curiel, and Huntsman's twin biological children when the incident took place in 2015.

The Californian reported that Steve Somers, deputy district attorney, while referring to the 11-year-old as "Jane Doe", said: "Jane Doe stole a bagel on Thanksgiving that led to the beatings, the hardest and strongest beatings, that led to the two other kids' deaths.

"She (Jane Doe) feels tremendous weight and responsibility."

According to KSBW8 News prosecutors said Delylah and Shaun were starved and abused for months by Huntsman and Curiel before their deaths.

The court heard that the abuse escalated until Thanksgiving 2015, when Huntsman received a free turkey for her family, but the children were not allowed to eat any, and when the unnamed child stole the bagel they became extremely angered.

The Californian reported that the children endured other abuse, which included being exposed to cold water and locked in a bathroom.

Somers told the court that Huntsman and Curiel drove the two bodies to a storage facility, and the severely injured then 9-year-old girl to another area.

The unnamed girl was rescued two weeks later by Plumas County sheriff's deputies who found her in a locked vehicle and she was rushed to a hospital, where they found she was almost beaten to death.

Curiel and Huntsman will be back in court 28 February and will stand trial in March and October this year.