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Joshua Tree couple facing child abuse charges to be in court to fight child protective order

The Joshua Tree couple arrested late last month after they and their three children were found living in squalid conditions on their vacant property will be in court Tuesday to fight a civil protective order put in place barring them from contacting their children, court records show.
Daniel Panico, 73, and his wife, Mona Kirk, 51, appeared in Joshua Tree Superior Court March 6 where a judge released them on their own recognizance from the San Bernardino County sheriff’s Morongo Basin station, but they are still facing three counts of felony child abuse charges. The couple’s attorneys argued they didn’t pose a flight risk and couldn’t afford bail, which initially had been set at $300,000.
The family made national headlines when it was revealed their three children and Kirk slept in a plywood structure — which was approximately 20 feet long by 4 feet high by 10 feet wide — on the family’s 5-acre property in the 7000 block of Sun Fair Road in Joshua Tree, San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials said.
Three children were found living inside a box on a property in the 7000 block of Sun Fair Road in Joshua Tree. Their parents, Mona Kirk, 51, and Daniel Panico, 73, were taken into custody by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies Wednesday. (Courtesy photo)
Their arrest sparked a debate surrounding homelessness and abuse with staunch supporters adamantly stating the couple loved and cared for their children but were targeted because they were poor.
The Sheriff’s Department, however, denies those claims and said the reason the couple was arrested was because of the conditions in which the children — ages 11 through 14 — were forced to live for about four years.
Longtime friend of the couple, Jackie Klear, organized a GoFundMe account that raised more than $50,000 for the couple. A portion of that money went to buy Panico and Kirk a home, she said on social media posting.
Over the weekend, she shared photos on her Facebook account of friends and strangers coming together to clean up the two-bedroom home. They hope the judge Tuesday, will see the progress and remove the protective order and will allow the family to reunite.
“Last night we found the family a home to move into before we even start the purchase of the home. RENT FREE!!!,” Klear posted on the GoFundMe Friday. “Tuesday is their next court hearing here in Joshua Tree and because of all of you, they are going to walk into that courtroom showing that they have a new place to live with all their utilities on and such.”

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