Authorities arrested a couple from Joshua Tree, California, after finding out that they had been living with three children in a plywood box for years.
Deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department at the Morongo Basin Station were driving through a remote Joshua Tree area on Wednesday, Feb. 28, when they came across an abandoned trailer and a large plywood box.
Upon further inspection, the deputies found that there was no running water or electricity on the property, and there were some trash piles and large holes with feces. Roughly 30 or 40 cats were roaming on the premises and living in the abandoned trailer. The property is located on Sun Fair Road, 7000 block, in Joshua Tree.
Kids Found Living In Makeshift Plywood Shelter
Three teens aged 14, 13, and 11, were living on the property, in the plywood box that served as an improvised shelter. Authorities stressed that the kids were not in the box against their will, it's where they lived, along with their parents.
The plywood box measured roughly 20 feet in length, four feet in height, and 10 feet in width, and the kids lived there for about four years.
"The victims were found to have an inadequate amount of food and were living in an unsuitable and unsafe environment due to the conditions located on the property," reveals the press release. "Children and Family Service responded to the location and took custody of the three victims."
Willful Cruelty To Child
Two adults were on the property and the deputies determined that they were the kids' parents. Authorities arrested 51-year-old Mona Kirk and 73-year-old Daniel Panico for willful cruelty to a child, according to the Penal Code 273 (A). The bail is set at $100,000.
While authorities reported at first that the kids lived in a box, Captain Trevis Newport of the Morongo Basin Station later highlighted that they were not in a confined space against their will, they were basically homeless, and their parents sheltered them in that plywood box.
"It's a shelter, the shape of a box ... nowhere near what it sounded like when it came out," said Newport.
They Chose Not To Ask For Help
The makeshift shelter, however, cannot offer suitable living conditions for children. Moreover, the nights get really cold this time of year. Although authorities said the kids did not have enough food, they added that they don't think they were malnourished.
Cindy Bachman, a Sherriff's Department spokeswoman, added that the situation is tragic considering that the people could have received help from special services dealing with such situations, yet they chose not to seek any assistance.
The children were not enrolled in any public school, and it's unknown whether the parents home-schooled them.