Crime Tape
A representational image of a crime scene. Getty Images/ Christopher Furlong

A California couple was arrested Thursday after it was found they forced their three kids to live in a plywood box for four years. According to officials, Mona Kirk, 51, and Daniel Panico, 73, were charged with child cruelty.

The incident came to light when police accidentally found the children living in the box during a property check in Joshua Tree, which is about 130 miles east of Los Angeles. According to the Morongo Basin Sheriff's Department, the box where the children were kept did not have electricity or running water.

"While checking the property deputies contacted three victims ages 11,13 and 14. Mona Kirk and Daniel Panico were found on the property and determined to be the parents of the victims," the sheriff’s office said in a press release.

The box was kept on the same property as a trailer that appeared to be abandoned.

Inside the trailer, deputies found around 30-40 cats “roaming freely, along with mounds of trash and feces, from both humans and feline.”

Authorities described the box as a large rectangular one, with only 20 feet space from end to end. It is approximately 4-foot high and 10-foot wide.

“The victims were found to have an inadequate amount of food and were living in an unsuitable and unsafe environment due to the conditions located on the property,” the sheriff’s office said in the press release. "Children and Family Service responded to the location and took custody of the three victims."

The pair was charged with willful cruelty to a child and held Thursday on $100,000 bail. The two are held at Morongo Basin Jail.

Cindy Bachman, a sheriff’s department spokeswoman, told the New York Times that investigators did not find any records of the children attending school. Authorities believed that the family lived on the property for at least the past four years, and their previous residing place was under investigation.

The latest incident comes just weeks after another California couple — David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin, of Perris — were arrested on torture and child endangerment charges for keeping their 13 children captive and shackled inside their suburban home. David and Louise Turpin were arrested Jan. 14.

Upon arrival at the Turpin house, police found “several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings,” the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said in a press release. All of the children were hospitalized after being rescued from the home.

Both parents pleaded not guilty to felony charges of torture, child abuse, abuse of dependent adults and false imprisonment. They were each held on a $13 million bail.

A representative image of a crime scene. Reuters/Joshua Lott