California couple arrested after 3 children found living for years in plywood box

Washington Post

A California couple has been accused of forcing their three children to live in what they described as a large plywood box for years on a remote property without running water or electricity or adequate food. The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department announced the arrest Thursday.

Maron Kirk and Daniel Panico have been charged with willful cruelty to a child and are being held in the Morongo Basin Jail on $100,000 bond.

Deputies discovered the trailer home and plywood box while conducting routine checks in the area around 11 a.m. Thursday on the 700 block of Sunfair Road, in a remote area of Joshua Tree, California, according to a news release from the sheriff's department.

At first, deputies thought they had found an abandoned trailer home and a large box in the desert. The box was about 20 feet long, 10 feet wide and 4 feet high.

There were mounds of trash and human feces and holes in the ground that appeared to be used as toilets. Bikes and broken swing set pieces, old furniture and a stray punching bag were strewn about the property.

When deputies went inside the trailer, they found about 30 to 40 cats roaming freely.

Then they found the children. According to the sheriff's department, the children, ages 11, 13, and 14, had been living in the rectangular plywood hovel for about four years.

"The victims were found to have an inadequate amount of food and were living in an unsuitable and unsafe environment due to the conditions located on the property," the sheriff's news release said.

The deputies contacted county Child and Protective Services, which took custody of the children.

Kirk and Panico, who were located on the property, were arrested.

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