California sheriff’s deputies made a troubling discovery earlier this week while conducting a routine area check: Three children living in a rectangular plywood box, surrounded by garbage and human feces.
The children — ages 11, 13 and 14 — were found Wednesday with “an inadequate amount of food and were living in an unsuitable and unsafe environment,” police told CNN. San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies determined that they had been living in the box, which measured about 20 feet long, 4 feet high and 10 feet wide, for about four years.
— Morongo Basin (@morongobasinstn) March 2, 2018
Children and Family Services officials have since taken the children into custody.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department told CNN that the desert property where the box was found had no running water or electricity, and was surrounded by large holes in the ground. Police also found 30 to 40 cats roaming around inside a travel trailer located near the box.
Police arrested the children’s parents, Mona Kirk, 51, and Daniel Panico, 73, on charges of willful cruelty to a child. Their bail was set at $100,000. A court date has yet to be announced.
San Bernardino Sheriff spokeswoman Cindy Bachman told CNN that Mr. Panico had been living in the trailer while Kirk lived in the box with their three children.
Bachman added that the children did not require any medical attention and deputies did not find signs of any other abuse.
San Bernardino County Capt. Trevis Newport clarified in a tweet that the children were not being held captive in the box, but that the family was living in the confined area without running water, electricity or heat.
A separate case involving California parents David and Louise Turpin rocked the country last month when local officials discovered signs that the two had tortured and imprisoned their 13 children in their Perris home. The disturbing details that emerged from the Turpin’s “house of horrors” launched a local and national debate regarding parental authority and homeschooling.