Reports confirm that 41-year-old David Detjen and 40-year-old Rebecca Detjen of Fairmount City, PA were arrested and charged Wednesday evening (Nov. 28) after police came across a shocking scene near New Castle, IN - 5 of the couple's 7 kids and their 18 cats jam-packed into the back of a moving van traveling cross-country. Apparently the family had come across hard financial times and was relocating to California for Detjen to see about a job opportunity. Authorities were tipped off about the overloaded cargo van (which left the northeast Wednesday morning) after an anonymous caller said a mother, a father, their seven children, and a number of felines were packed inside the box truck headed for the Golden Coast. The parents currently remain in the Henry County Jail on a bond set at $5,000 and both are preliminarily charged with four felony counts of neglect of a dependent.
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According to police reports, troopers pulled over the moving van and lifted the back hatch to find five children (ranging in ages 9 to 18) crammed inside the small and cold trailer. The youngsters were littered among the family's belongings and their 18 pet cats. The children were found at approximately 10 p.m. on Wednesday in the unheated transportable storage unit that was only a meager 32 degrees inside. Two other kids, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old, rode in the front cab with the parents.
Sgt. John Bowling claimed, "They were wearing coats and they had sleeping bags but they had no way to communicate with their parents in the front of the truck." (It was later discovered that the children in the back of the van did have two cellphones "in case of an emergency").
Reports confirm that six minor children and one adult daughter are now in the care of Child Protective Services.
"They were down on their luck for sure," Sgt. Bowling said. "They didn't have a car. This was a last-ditch effort to follow up on a possible job in San Bernardino. But it still was an unwise decision (to allow family members to travel in the cargo area).The dad has told investigators he knew it was a bad idea."
Witnesses at the scene were appalled - according to one onlooker Blaine Grider, "Definitely cold out, you can seem my breath right now," he said. "I can't imagine being in that truck you know all crammed together with just a sleeping bag."
While the parents currently reside in jail, the Henry County prosecutor has yet to receive an official report from the State Police (therefore no official charges have been filed in connection with the arrests).