In a case that has shocked many, a dilapidated old school bus was home to two children until Wednesday when a postal worker accidentally discovered them living inside the bus in a garbage-strewn lot in Montgomery County while their parents sit in prison.
The 11 year old girl and her five year old brother were found by a postal worker on Wednesday morning around 10.00 am during his routine rounds along a rural street near Houston.
“They appeared to be unsupervised,” said Jamie Nash with the Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office.
What was even more surprising was the surrounding in which the bus was located with garbage strewn all around and a foul smell. The bus had been converted into living quarters with bunk beds and window mounted air conditioner but the children still lived on food they could lay hands on in the lot of another nearby building.
“Everyone who was on the scene talked about the odor – there was a lot of trash on the property,” Nash said.
When the postal worker first noted the odd bus, and the children living in it, he messaged Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts who is known to take interest in juvenile cases.
Metts, in turn, contacted Precinct 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden who went over to check.
Hayden found the property heavily wooded with signs warning against trespassers. There were bicycles and toys all around and a large mixed breed dog slept under the bus.
Hayden met a woman who is believed to be the children’s’ great-aunt. She said she worked a 12 hour shift from Monday to Friday but was with the children at night.
“Whether she was there or not, they were being unsupervised for extended periods. It’s not acceptable,” Nash said.
According to the officials the two kids were not listed in the Splendora Independent School District and said that they were home schooled.
Later they also found that the children were often seen running in the area at night, and were always barefoot.
Gayla Payne, who lives nearby said, “They always had dirty clothes on (and) no shoes, even in the winter.”
The girl had also revealed to Gayla’s daughter that she bathed only twice a week.
“The girl’s hair was always messed up,” said another neighbor, Myra Langston. “She looks unkempt, like she doesn’t shower.”
Haydon later called Child Protection Services who have now launched an investigation.
The kids’ parents Mark and Sherrie Shorten, both of Splendora, were convicted in a federal court in Louisiana of embezzling money from victims of Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Officials found that while Sherrie Shorten helped the victims obtain loans to repair storm damage, the money was then deposited in a bank account to pay the contractor – her husband and was later emptied by them.
Both were sentenced to 18 months in prison early this year.
CPS caseworkers are now trying to find out if there is anyone in the family who can take care of the children. If not they will be placed in foster care.
Gwen Carter, a CPS spokeswoman added that there are no evidence of physical abuse and the children only need to be cleaned up right now.
Metts, the justice of the peace, said he was glad the children will now sleep in clean beds and have enough to eat.
“But it does raise the question: How did they slip through the cracks?” he noted.
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