Sentencing delayed after details of parents' past come out in court

David, Rebecca Detjen pleaded guilty to neglect

HENRY COUNTY, Ind. - Sentencing has been delayed for Pennsylvania parents that pleaded guilty to child neglect after new details about the couple's past came out in court Thursday.

David K. Detjen, 41, and Rebecca S. Detjen, 40, of Fairmount City, Penn., pleaded guilty to one count each of child neglect after police found five of their children riding in the back of a moving truck during a cross-county trip in November.

The Detjens were prepared to take a plea agreement in court Thursday -- which included a year and a half suspended sentence and a year and a half of probation -- but the judge would neither approve nor deny the agreement.

It came out in court that David Detjen has a prior conviction in Wayne County, Ind., related to a 1990 child molestation case. He also has a 2001 theft conviction on his record.

Both David and Rebecca Detjen were convicted of child endangerment in 2005.

"We had a dirty house and I had a broken ankle," Rebecca Detjen told RTV6, when asked about her 2005 conviction.

The Detjens' November arrest resulted from an anonymous tip to police.

The caller said their relative had left Pennsylvania with their seven children, and they believed at least five of the children were riding in the storage area in the back of the truck.

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 of Interstate 70.

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 Detjens' story engendered a lot of sympathy immediately after their arrest, and a stranger from Texas even paid their bond.

The couple's sentencing has been rescheduled for June 11 at 9 a.m.

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