A California couple has been arrested after allegedly forcing their three children to live in a box in the middle of the desert for years. Police discovered the box earlier this week when they searched the property of Mona Kirk, 51, and Daniel Panico, 73, located in Joshua Tree.
Deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department first searched what they thought was an abandoned trailer which housed 30-40 cats. They then discovered a large rectangular box made of plywood, which was approximately 20 feet long by 4 feet high by 10 feet. wide. The property had no electricity or running water and had several large holes as well as mounds of trash and human feces. Police allege Mona and Daniel's three children — ages 11, 13, and 14 — had been living in the box for four years.
(Photo Credit: Splash
The case is eerily similar to David and Louise Turpin, a couple who abused their 13 children — often denying them of food and allowing them only a single shower each year. In an interview with Sunday People, Louise's half-brother Billy Lambert said that the troubling duo set their sights on reality TV. "She used to say how they would be perfect for TV and would often mention they would be bigger than the reality show Kate Plus 8," he said. "It is the reason they moved to California — to be nearer to Hollywood. Only last month, Louise told me [she] and David were planning to have another child. I asked her why on Earth they wanted more children, and she said [something] about wanting a reality TV show."
The two were arrested and have since been charged with 12 counts on torture; David was also charged with a lewd act on a child by force or fear of duress. According to CNN, other charges include seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse or neglect, and 12 counts of false imprisonment. Though they have pleaded not guilty on all accounts, the Turpins are currently being held with bail set at $12 million each. If found guilty, each faces a maximum sentence between 94 years to life in prison.
Mona and Daniel were arrested and charged with willful cruelty to a child and are currently being held in Morongo Basin Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail. Children and Family Services are now looking after the three siblings.