A couple was arrested on Wednesday when authorities found that they live in a box made of plywood, and had been residing there with their three children for several years.
Mona Kirk and Daniel Panico of Joshua Tree have three children and they have reportedly lived well below the poverty level for quite some time. The couple owns a piece of land in a rural area, and they have parked a trailer on the property in order to provide shelter to their family. Near the trailer, they have an outdoor box-like structure made out of plywood, and there is no electricity or running water on the land. They have been making ends meet in this fashion for the last four years.
The children, ages 11, 13 and 14 are homeschooled and are said to be very intelligent. Their parents keep them active in community activities such as the local scout group, and frequented educational spots including the Hi-Desert Nature Museum in Yucca Valley, and the public library, as reported by friends of the family.
On Wednesday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department was performing an area check on the land where the family resides and they became alarmed when they discovered the substitute housing and the condition of the property.
Deputies alleged that during their inspection they saw the plywood box-shelter and the trailer and discovered over thirty cats roaming freely. They also reported that there was garbage and human excrement littering the plot. In addition, the officers deemed that there was not enough food on the premises to sufficiently provide nutrition to the three children.
When taking into account what they had seen on the property and the additional knowledge that they had no access to water and utility services the officers decided that the environment was insufficient for raising children.
Kirk and Panico were taken into custody on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child and remain in the Morongo Basin Jail in lieu of $100,000 bond each. They were each charged with three counts of felony child abuse on Friday.
Kirk and Panico both pleaded not guilty to the charges, and San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Bert Swift added a stipulation that the couple cannot communicate with their children.
The children remain in the custody of Children and Family Services.
If you or someone you love is suspected of child abuse, contact Orange County criminal defense lawyer Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 for a consultation now.