Couple Arrested for Forcing 3 Kids to Live in a Box in the Desert & People Are Defending Them


Earlier this week, two parents were arrested after police officers discovered their three children living in a box in the California desert. While the couple is currently facing charges that could land them in prison, the discovery of their children has people debating over whether this situation is a case of extreme child abuse and neglect or just a family struck by poverty. 

  • According to a press release by the Morongo Basin Sheriff's Department, the kids were found on Wednesday, February 28.

    While conducting a routine area check on a stretch of desert in Joshua Tree, California sheriff's deputies came across what appeared to be an abandoned travel trailer. After finding 30 to 40 cats inside the trailer, deputies continued to search the property, quickly discovering a "large rectangular box made of plywood" on the grounds. 

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  • Upon further investigation, they discovered three children and their parents on the property.

    The children, aged 11, 13, and 14, revealed that they had been living in the box -- which was about 20 feet long, four feet high, and 10 feet wide and had a plastic tarp for a roof -- for four years. Deputies also learned that the property had no electricity or running water and was surrounded by large holes, mounds of trash, and human feces. Officers claimed that the children did not have an "adequate amount of food" and were living in an "unsuitable and unsafe environment." 

    According to the San Bernadino Sun, the children were not locked or held captive in the box. Their mother, 51-year-old Mona Kirk, slept in the box with them while their father, 73-year-old Daniel Panico, slept in the travel trailer. 

    It was also revealed that the children were not registered in any of the local public schools. While investigators are still looking into their status as registered home-school students, no study materials were found on the property. 

    Panico and Kirk were arrested and booked into the Morongo Basin Jail on charges of willful cruelty to a child in lieu of a $100,000 bond. In a court appearance earlier today, the duo pled not guilty to the charge against them. People reports that the three children are currently in the custody of Children and Family Services.

  • While most people are horrified at the conditions the children were found in, many are defending the parents.

    It's unclear where the family was living prior to the last four years, but many assume they were homeless and argued that there is nothing to prove that these children are victims of abuse rather than just victims of poverty. 

  • Some are insisting that people have compassion for a family that may have been struggling.

    "I think there was no crime committed here," remarked one person. "The family was poor. It was not like they were beating their children and starving them on purpose."

  • Others say that police should have helped the parents instead of arresting them.

    "Yes, it's squalor and not healthy, but maybe it's what they could do right now," said a Twitter user

  • But there are also those who find the parents' actions to be completely inexcusable.

    Some say that the parents should have turned their children over to child services earlier if they were "really having such a hard time" and were unable to properly take care of them. 

    Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Department, told the Los Angeles Times, "This time of year, it's very cold at night. When that wind blows, it is freezing .... These kids are living in a shelter made of wood and tarp and it's 20 to 30 degrees at night."

  • Daniel Panico and Mona Kirk have been accused of being "pure evil" by many.

  • While many details in the case are still unknown, we should all agree that no child should be forced to live in conditions like the ones these kids were found in.

    Whether or not we believe these parents deserve compassion or prison time, we are happy that their children have been rescued from their hellish home and hope that Children and Family Services is working to ensure that they never have to go back. 

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