HENRY COUNTY, Ind. - The parents of five children found riding in the back of a box truck have pleaded not guilty on neglect charges.
David K. Detjen, 41, and Rebecca S. Detjen, 40, of Fairmount City, Penn., appeared in court in Henry County on Friday to face one count each of felony neglect after five of their children were found riding in the back of box truck this week, police said.
The family's rented moving truck was found at a Flying J truck stop in Henry County, near the 123 mile marker along Interstate 70, on Wednesday night.
Police said they were alerted by an anonymous tip from someone who said their relative had left Pennsylvania earlier in the day Wednesday with their seven children.
The caller told police they believed at least five of the children were riding in the storage area in the back of the truck, and that they had tried to stop the parents from leaving with the children in the back.
Police watched along the interstate for the truck until a vehicle matching the caller's description was seen pulling into the Flying J at the New Castle exit.
Police said two children were in the cab of the truck with their mother and father, along with three cats.
According to court documents, an officer asked Rebecca Detjen if there were any children in the back of the box truck, and she said no.
When the officer asked David Detjen if there were children in the back of the truck, he said yes and opened the door for the officer, court documents said.
Police said an 18-year-old daughter and four other children ranging from age 9 to age 17 were in the unheated back of the truck. Police said there were also 15 cats found in the back of the truck.
Police said there were sleeping bags in the back of the truck, but the children had no heat or ability to communicate with their parents. The probable cause affidavit said the officer knew the children were cold, because he could see their breath.
All of the family's belongings were also in the truck, and police said two of the children were riding on a tall stack of boxes.
David Detjen told police that he had a job prospect in California, and was moving his family there. According to court documents, he told police that he knew the travel arrangement was unsafe and that he had made a mistake.
The couple had separate attorneys and sat at different tables in the courtroom during Friday's hearing.
In 2005, the couple each pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child and were each sentenced to two years on probation, according to court records.
Police said the children are now with Child Protective Services and Henry County Animal Control took possession of the cats. All seven children were able to be placed with the same foster family, police said.
Henry County Prosecutor Joe Bergacs said the children might soon be with family.
"The children are currently in the custody of the DCS, and it's my understanding that they're looking at options for family members to send the children to," he said.
The judge set a March 11 trial date for the Detjens.
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