Charges reduced for couple who housed kids in desert shack

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — Felony charges have been reduced to misdemeanors for a Southern California couple found with their three children in a makeshift desert shack.

Court records show 73-year-old Daniel Panico and 51-year-old Mona Kirk pleaded not guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor child endangerment and charges related to truancy.

It wasn’t immediately clear why prosecutors decided to reduce the charges. Panico and Kirk have said they’re not abusive, just poor.

Authorities took custody of the kids when the parents were arrested in February near Joshua Tree National Park, about 125 miles (201 kilometers) east of Los Angeles. Investigators said the children — between 11 and 14 years old — had been living without running water or electricity for several years.

The children remain in the custody of child welfare officials.

Categories: California News