The Los Angeles Times reports that a California couple arrested after authorities found their children living in a shack has been released from jail, but they are still facing child abuse charges. Daniel Panico and Mona Kirk were released on their own recognizance on Tuesday, just five days after their three children were found living in a shack built of plywood.
Panico, 73, and Kirk, 51, have been charged with felony child abuse. Their children, ages 11, 13 and 14, were found by a deputy while sleeping in the shack, which was four feet tall and made of plywood walls and a tin roof. The shack was located in a remote part of Joshua Tree; the children were removed and given to the Department of Children and Family Services.
Authorities claim the children had little food and were in danger. Supporters of the family say the couple has done their best to provide for the children, despite being homeless and in poverty.
According to deputies, the family of five lived in the shack for four years, but Panico claims it was just built a couple months ago. He has also stated that he and Kirk sometimes slept inside in the shack and other times they slept outside. The couple would also sometimes sleep in a Joshua Tree home where Panico worked.
Panico owns the land where the shack was discovered, and he has planned to build a home on the site. He is an inventor and working on a creation that will hopefully earn money to provide for his family.
The LA Times says a patent was found online issued to a Daniel Panico in 1976 for a children’s toy. Another patent application was submitted under the same name in 2016 for a “device for production of a net impulse by precession.”
Kirk stopped working when she had children and now home-schools them. The parents say that their daughter takes ballet lessons and the sons have played soccer. Panico stated he doesn’t believe in utilizing government assistance, and wants to take care of his family independently.
*Photo credit Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times