Homeless Couple Charged as Child Abusers for Raising Kids in Shack

March 3, 2018 Updated: March 3, 2018

A California couple who raised their children in a homemade plywood shack has pleaded not guilty to charges of child abuse.

Daniel Panico and Mona Kirk lived with their three children in what was basically a big plywood box without electricity or running water just outside Joshua Tree National Park, about 125 miles east of Los Angeles.

Panico, 73, and Kirk, 51, and their children, aged 14, 13, and 11, slept in the 4-foot-tall, 200-square-foot shelter, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy noticed the shelter and on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child arrested the parents. They were charged with three counts of child abuse each, on Friday, March 2.   

Children and Family Services took custody of the children, and the parents were ordered not to communicate with their children.

Sheriff’s Capt. Trevis Newport told the Times the children were not being held captive. “They’re homeless,” he explained. “It’s a shelter, the shape of a box … nowhere near what it sounded like when it came out.”

Along with no water or electricity, there was no sewer service. The shelter was surrounded by pits filled with trash and human waste, Fox News reported.

“Children should not have to live like that,” Cindy Bachman, a San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman told Fox. “As parents they have a responsibility to provide the basic necessities for their children to grow up and be healthy and safe.” 

Though the family was poor there is no report that the children were malnourished or sick in any way.

The children were home-schooled and according to Fox were described by friends of the couple as being highly intelligent.

One of those friends, Jackie Klear, leads a local Phoenix Scout troop, in which all three children were active.

Klear told the L.A. Times that the three children attended weekly meetings, went camping, and made crafts like all the other scouts.

While stopping by the shelter to pick up personal items for the family, Klear surveyed the site and said, “I know this looks like crap, but they were very well taken care of,” the Times reported.

“The Sheriff’s Department is punishing those kids for being homeless,” said Leanna Munroe, who has known the family for nine years.

“Their crime is being homeless and they kept it from people,” said Marsha Custodio, of Yucca Valley, another friend of the family.

Apparently the family owned the property where they were camping. There was an abandoned trailer on the property, where the family had lived when they first moved there. Klear told the Times she thought that one of the children had built the shelter and that the family still lived in the trailer.

Klear said the family was on a fixed income and refused to accept any form of help or handout. She blamed the parents for stubbornly refusing to accept assistance.

“They don’t want handouts,” she told the Times. “I’m hoping this woke them up.”

From NTD.tv

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