LOS ANGELES -- (KTLA/L.A. Times) -- A judge on Tuesday ordered Daniel Panico and Mona Kirk released on their own recognizance, five days after the Joshua Tree couple was arrested when a deputy found their three children living in a plywood shack.
Dozens of supporters were at the Joshua Tree courthouse Tuesday morning to show their support for the parents.
They wore red paper hearts on their clothing to show their love for the family. Before the hearing the supporters rallied outside the courthouse, carrying signs that read “reunite this family” and “being homeless is not a crime.”
In a jailhouse interview Monday night, Panico said his family has been torn apart even though he and his wife did nothing wrong.
The two parents were arrested after their three children were discovered living in a box among feces and trash outside a trailer just east of Joshua Tree, deputies said on March 1, 2018.
The children - ages 14, 13 and 11 - told authorities they'd 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 in the 7000 block of Sunfair Road while on patrol around 11 a.m. Wednesday morning.
An initial survey of the property revealed there was no electricity or running water, and large holes, mounds of trash and human feces were scattered 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.