David K. Detjen, 41, and Rebecca S. Detjen, 40, are facing four felony charges of neglect of a dependent. The couple from Fairmount City, Pa., remains in a Henry County, Ind., jail as they face the class D felony with a $5 thousand bond, thwarting their plans of moving the family to California in search of job opportunities.
All five children have been brought to child protective services, and the cats have been brought to the Henry County Animal Control center.
"They were down on their luck for sure. They didn't have a car,” said Sgt. John D Bowling of the Indiana State Police in a statement, according to USA Today. “This was a last-ditch effort to follow up on a possible job in San Bernardino (in California). 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."
The children in the back of the truck ranged from nine years old to 16 years old. There were also two other children, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old, who rode in the cab with their parents.
Bowling claims that when the arrest was first made and the truck was impounded on Wednesday, troopers didn’t think the five kids in the back of the truck had contact with their parents, but this has been proven wrong.
"Troopers did discover two cell phones back there," USA Today reports Bowling said. "We think they were able to communicate."
With temperatures below freezing at the time the parents were arrested, the cold added to the various safety hazards that come with traveling in the unheated storage area of a moving van. There is also a chance of carbon-monoxide poisoning from the exhaust fumes of the truck, reports Boston Children’s Hospital.
The arrests were made after authorities received a call from a relative of the traveling family on Wednesday. Bowling claims that the anonymous family member said the group left Pennsylvania hours earlier and could have had children riding in the cargo section of the truck.
The children were found with sleeping bags and heavy clothes at around 10 pm on Interstate 70 at a Flying “J” truck stop outside of Spiceland, Ind., claims USA Today. Authorities say that though the passengers were in warm clothing, the back of the truck was still too cold.