A 5-year-old boy and 11-year-old girl were found living alone in a stench-filled abandoned school bus after their parents were sent to prison.
A postal worker discovered the two young children living in squalid conditions in Texas, alone after both of their parents were sent to prison for embezzling money from Hurricane Ike victimes. But their mother, Sherrie Shorten, insists the bus was only meant to be a temporary home and was in good shape before she left, according to The Daily Mail!
“We moved from an apartment into the bus to conserve funds, but then we were arrested,” she says of the living arrangement. “But there was no smell when we lived there.”
Sherrie says she spoke with her kids on the phone daily, and their 60-year-old aunt Hazel Burts stayed with them at night. “We were trying to keep them in their normal routine, around the toys, clothes and home that they knew,” the mom says. “When we left, that bus was clean and did not reek of anything.”
Vanessa Picazo, the postal worker who found the kids and alerted authorities, describes the neglected condition she discovered. “The little girl’s hair was just matted, like a stray dog’s,” she says.
The children’s dad, Mark Shorten, says he never intended the bus to be a permanent situation and claims the family was planning to build a house at the site. “The house is normally clean,” he says. “If me or my wife were there, it would not be in that shape, I assure you. Our house would be completed or almost completed.”
The kids told authorities they were being “home-schooled.” Sherrie says the 5-year-old boy knew numbers and letters, and he wasn’t supposed to enter kindergarten until the next year. Their daughter was being taught by mail from jail.
“Every week I would mail her a new set of lessons and return the graded ones,” the mom says. “We’d talk on the phone when she had questions. Last week she was having trouble understanding exponents.”
Sherrie’s lawyer says everybody thought the aunt was in charge of caring for the children and was shocked to discover the news. The bus had electricity, hot and cold water (including a shower and flush toilets), heat and air conditioning. “It’s not the bus,” a spokesperson for Child Protective Services, Gwen Carter, says. “It’s the condition and supervision issues.”
Sherrie will be released next month, and she plans to fight to get her kids back.
“I want my kids back,” she says. “I am being released April 5 and was looking forward to being reunited and making a fresh start.”
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