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

JOSHUA TREE, Calif. — Two parents were arrested after their three children were discovered living in a box among feces and trash outside a trailer in Joshua Tree, California, deputies said Thursday.

The children — ages 14, 13 and 11 — told authorities they had been living in a plywood box for about four years, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.

The makeshift structure measured 20 feet long, 10 feet wide and 4 feet high, authorities said.

Officials made the discovery after happening upon a travel trailer that looked abandoned while on patrol around 11 a.m. Wednesday.

An initial survey of the property revealed there was no electricity or running water, and there were large holes, mounds of trash and human feces throughout the area, deputies said.

There were also 30 to 40 cats found living inside the trailer, the sheriff’s department said.

The children were not being properly fed and clearly living in extreme squalor, officials determined.

All three were placed into the custody of San Bernardino County Children and Family Services.

Their parents — Mona Kirk, 51, and Daniel Panico, 73 — were arrested on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child. They were being held in lieu of $100,000 bail at the Morongo Basin sheriff’s station.

Officials did not say whether the cats were turned over to Animal Care and Control.