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Two Fulton women have been charged in connection with a child abuse investigation, according to the Callaway County Sheriff's Office.

Hayleigh Mertell, 24, of was charged Thursday with second-degree statutory rape and second-degree statutory sodomy. Samantha Strahl, 38, was charged with felony first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

Both arrests stemmed from an investigation into the reported abuse of a 16-year-old male in Strahl's care, according to probable cause statements filed in the case.

On Sept. 20, two Callaway County Deputies responded to two residents in the 5000 block of County Road following a report of the situation.

The 16-year-old told deputies he had been living with Mertell for several weeks, the two had unprotected sex and Mertell knew of his age, according to the probable cause statement.

On Tuesday, Mertell came to the sheriff's office to be interviewed. According to investigator Ryan Lacey, she admitted to having sexual contact with the teen multiple times, beginning in July 2019.

She initially told investigators she hadn't known the teen's age, but she later admitted she had learned he was a minor "early in the relationship and continued to have sex with him," Lacey stated.

Strahl was interviewed Tuesday and Wednesday, and "admitted to suspecting (the minor) and Mertell were in a sexual relationship," having seen the two hold hands and kiss, the statement said. She reportedly told investigators she had smoked marijuana with the teen and methamphetamine with the teen and Mertell.

She also told investigators she had allowed the teen to move into Mertell's trailer, according to the statement.

Mertell was arrested Tuesday and taken to the Callaway County Jail. Her bond was set at $15,000. Strahl was arrested Wednesday, taken to the Callaway County Jail, and later released on a $4,500 bond.

The investigation is continuing, and further arrests and charges are possible, the CCSO added.

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