An 11-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy in Texas were found living alone in an abandoned school bus after their parents were sent to prison in 2010.
The imprisoned mother of two, Sherrie Shorten, told the Houston Chronicle that she thought a relative was taking care of her children.
We moved from an apartment into the bus to conserve funds, but then we were arrested. There was no smell when we lived there, Shorten said.
On Sept. 16, 2010, Shorten was arrested and six months later her husband Mark Shorten too was arrested. The parents were found guilty of conspiring to steal $126,300 in government money from victims of Hurricane Ike that hit in 2008.
Shorten said that she had daily telephonic conversations from jail with her kids and a 60-year-old aunt, Hazel Burts, who stays with the children at night. But none of them pointed out anything was wrong, she said.
According to Shorten, Burts, who was the temporary guardian after the parent’s arrests, would come back to the kids each weekday evening after completing a 12-hour shift as a utility worker in Houston.
Shorten was worried whether the aunt had failed to properly flush the sewer tank into the septic system.
Whether she was there or not, they were being unsupervised for extended periods. It's not acceptable, Jamie Nash with the Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable's Office told New York Daily.
The dilapidated bus covered in trash was discovered by a postal worker in the heavily wooded property. Officials said that bus seats were been removed in order to place a mattress and bunk beds.
The bus had electricity, water and a small bathroom. There was a cottage near the bus with a refrigerator and some food in it.
We were trying to keep them in their normal routine, around the toys, clothes and home that they knew, Shorten said. When we left, the bus was clean and did not reek of anything.
The children are now placed in temporary foster care and officials have scheduled a hearing for March 9.