JOSHUA TREE (CBSLA) — A Joshua Tree couple is being held on child-cruelty charges after officials found three teens living in a plywood shack.

The property is in the 7000 block of Sun Fair Road.

The couple was identified as 51-year-old Mona Kirk and 73-year-old Daniel Panico.

The children were described as 14, 13 and 11 years of age.

Authorities went to the property just after 11 a.m. Thursday. Deputies found a travel trailer they believed was abandoned. Also on the property, they found a large rectangular box.

Officials said the property had no electricity or running water. The property, they reported, had mounds of trash and human feces strewn about.

Inside the trailer, deputies also found 30-40 cats.

Deputies came into contact with three victims, the teens. It was determined the suspects were the parents of the children.

During their investigation, deputies determined the children lived for four years inside the rectangular box described as 20 feet long, 4 feet high and about 10 feet wide.

Officials said there was an inadequate amount of food present, and the children were living in an unsuitable and unsafe environment.

(credit: Sheriff’s Deputies Morongo Basin.)

Children and Family Services took custody of the children.

Kirk and Panico were arrested and booked into the Morongo Basin Jail in suspicion of willful cruelty to a child. They are being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

KCAL9’s Tina Patel reported from the location.

“It looks like a junkyard,” she reported, “piles of trash and old furniture scattered everywhere.”

She spoke to Mike Reynolds, a neighbor who has never been on the property but said he’s know the family for the past few years.

“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 said.

While the property didn’t have running water or electricity, Reynolds doesn’t see that as a crime.

“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,” Reynolds said.

He also said that the children looked healthy and safe. He said his neighbor might have been poor, but he wasn’t 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.”

Anyone with information about this case is urged to call the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Morongo Basin Station at (760) 366-4175. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may contact We-Tip at 1-888-78-CRIME.

Comments (63)
  1. I would buy Reynolds arguments in favor of her neighbors, except that the kids lived in a structure only 4 feet tall and they lived in the trailer. Plus why subject the children to living with all those animals in such a tiny structure? You don’t have to be rich to dig a latrine so the children aren’t forced to live in feces.

  2. This is California, where illegals and crack heads make the rules. What do you expect.

    1. Every time Drudge links a story about CA, his fake patriot, fake conservative readers chime in to show how little patriotism they have. Not only that, they’re cowards who turn their backs on their fellow citizens and run away. But, it’s even worse: by turning their backs on their fellow citizens like the cowardly fake patriots they are, they’re harming themselves. CA has a lot of good things but also some bad things. And, those bad things tend to spread to other states. If Drudge readers and cons in general were smart and patriotic, they’d stand with their fellow citizens and oppose those bad things. They don’t and will be negatively impacted by those bad things because of it.

  3. Zardoz Wiz says:

    fixer upper, low taxes, uncrowded, lowish crime, whats not to love?

  4. Bob Lee says:

    My great grandparents lived in a tar paper shack with no running water or electricity. Whats the big deal…

      1. you obviously have never heard of the great depression have you! educate yourself before you sound stupid.

      2. Sarah: Apparent you need a newer eye glass prescription because you missed that really stupid part that says “What’s the big deal?” Or maybe you just don’t care what happens to the kids?

  5. Probably can sell it for 1.3 million

  6. Bill Jackman says:

    The neighbor sounds just as clueless. The father was poor but he wanted to build his dream house?

  7. It is California…the homeless and illegal democrat capital of the world.! So what is the problem?

  8. The guy is an idiot…Just what is it exactly with Californians, the water?

  9. sooo…what happens when how or where YOU live is outlawed? think it can’t happen?.If anyone should get it, California, the home of Japanese internment camps, should get it

  10. Rudy Gold says:

    Is this just another example of public employees in public positions entrusted with the welfare of citizens … doing what they usually do? Like in Parkland, FL? Maybe? The dump site was not noticed by patrolling police or any public works employee?

  11. Bob Suyak says:

    Why so many “homeless” in Ca? Don’t the dems/liberals know what the f..k they are doing? They are and have be in charge for years.

  12. THIS is what happens when your political leaders and lawmakers put the welfare of illegal aliens overtop of their own citizenry. While they’re fighting to protect illegals, they’re treating the homeless citizens like trash.
    Remember this when voting time comes. Democrats always put illegals before citizens.

  13. Soon you’ll be arrested if you don’t have granite kitchen counters and all the other types of things that go with them!

  14. Tom Hunt says:

    The cats probably ate better than the kids.

  15. Dan Roth says:

    $100,000 bond! Arrested! Eons ago people lived in caves and did not get arrested for it. That bond is insane. California’s statehood should be revoked.

  16. God help those children. CPS is generally brutally corrupt, and who knows what they’ll do with them??? Drug them to the gills, sell them into sex slavery. Personally, I’d choose a shack.

  17. California has improved so much under the democrat leadership.