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Parents Arrested After Children Found Living Inside a Box

A California couple was arrested after San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies found their three children living in a rectangular box made of plywood with trash and human feces piled around them.

california kids living in box
(Photo: San Bernardino Sheriff's Department)

The Joshua Tree couple was identified as Mona Kirk, 51, and Daniel Panico, 73, reports CBS Los Angeles. The children are 14, 13 and 11 years old.

Deputies went to their property on Wednesday while conducting an area check in Joshua Tree, according to a press release. They found a travel trailer believed to be abandoned near the rectangular box. Thirty to 40 cards were found in the trailer, and the property had no running water or electricity, authorities said.

During the investigation, they learned that the three children were living in the rectangular box for four years. It measured 20 feet long, 4 feet high and 10 feet wide. Officials also determined that the children were living in an unsafe environment, with little food available. They are now in the custody of Children and Family Services.

Cindy Bachman, San Bernardino Sheriff spokeswoman, told CNN the children did not need medical attention. Deputies are not aware of other abuses at this time, Bachman said.

Panico and Kirk were charged with suspicion of willful cruelty to a child. They are being held at Morongo Basin Jail on $100,000 bail.

california kids living in box 2
(Photo: Photo credit: San Bernardino Sheriff's Department)

Mike Reynolds, a neighbor who came to know the family, told CBS Los Angeles that Panico was hoping to build his "dream house" and owned the lot. He also described Panico as poor and not a criminal.

“There’s people out there in the gutters raising their kids in less environment, in cardboard boxes and having to go to the bathroom in the gutters and they don’t get arrested. They need help but they’re not getting arrested.” Reynolds said. “My goodness, he’s living on his own property.”

“His family, they lived not too far from here and they lost their house. So he bought that lot and bought that trailers and moved up. There were living there, and his goal was to build his dream house,” Reynolds explained. "We’re in the desert. People come up here to get away from it all. People come up here to live off of the grid."

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Anyone with information related to the case is asked to contact the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Morongo Basin Station at (760) 366-4175, or We-Tip at 1-888-78-CRIME.

Photo credit: San Bernardino Sheriff's Department