5 Kids, 18 Cats In Back Of Moving Van; Parents Arrested

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The parents of seven children made an unfortunate decision yesterday when they decided to allow five of their kids–four minors and one adult–to ride in the back of a moving van during a cross-country trip.

David K. Detjen, 41, and Rebecca S. Detjen, 40, were taken into custody after an anonymous tip was called in to an Indiana State Police station by a concerned family member, letting them know the group was heading their way from Pennsylvania. The Detjens said they had been down on their luck in recent months and were without a car; the move to California was based on the promise of a job there.

Officials found two children riding in the cab with the adults, and the other five family members were in the back of the van, which was without heat and held the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. Also being transported were 18 cats, all locked in crates.

The elder Detjens have been jailed on four charges of neglect, and investigating officers say the parents knew that what they were doing was unwise.

“They were down on their luck for sure,” Sergeant John Bowling said. “They didn’t have a car. This was a last-ditch effort to follow up on a possible job in San Bernardino (in California). But it still was an unwise decision (to allow family members to travel in the cargo area). The dad has told investigators he knew it was a bad idea.”

The family hasn’t commented on the turn of events which led them to pack up and move, but a dragging economy and staggering job loss has weighed heavily on many Americans in recent years. The children are all in the care of Child Protective Services, and the animals have been taken in by Henry County Animal Control.

5 Kids, 18 Cats In Back Of Moving Van; Parents Arrested
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  • kaymay

    If you are down on your luck, which I have complete sympathy for, then why do you have eighteen cats? Priorities, people.

  • Teresa

    18 cats, man that’s alot of mouths to feed

    • NM

      It’s $1/day/cat food+litter from Kmart if you go “fancy” like “friskies”… Cats ARE family!
      I think I would do the same if I were them…

  • Rinehart

    um if the family was really concerned they would have offered to come get them of at the very least take the chldren till the parents got on thier feet?

    • joanne

      Agreed. I feel awful for the kids. I mean it WAS a stupid decision on the parents part, but putting the kids in protective services with strangers before the holidays is only going to further punish the innocent children. Where’s the “concerned” family member now. Just sleeping like a baby knowing those kids that were already ripped from their normal lives are now “orphans” in the system. That family obviously didn’t care enough to take the kids in the first place.

    • Ann

      You have no idea what the circumstances were with the family member. Maybe she tried to talk them out of it. Maybe she too is unemployed and unable to help. She was trying to save lives. Would it have been OK with you if they had died. They may be separated from their parents, but the are ALIVE!!! There was also a huge possibility of frost bite.

  • http://webpronews cate lynn

    Having that many cats is not normal, it is an illness. Animal hoarding is common these days. And these people need to seek some professional help.

  • http://webpronews cate lynn

    Animal hoarding is an illness which seems to be what these people are suffering from. That is sad.

  • MARY

    Bad decision because of the carbon monoxide. I can understand them doing this. It is hard to get rid of cats or any family pets. Granted 18 is a huge number, but maybe they had hope and thought they would swim or sink with all on board. If I had money, I would help these folks. It is so sad.

  • FightingFitz

    Times are hard but having the kids in the back is insane. I just wonder were the cats pets or livestock :)

  • steph

    Understandable we all go through hard times.but to put ur kids in danger and you also got 18 cats in there with them..they needed this..#rude awakening

  • rosana

    i hear all of you talking about the kds i am a animal lover myself but what about the kids they could have died in the back of there what were they thinking oh thats right they weren’t

  • Leslie Egna

    Even having three animals is a lot. I will never be an animal hourder.

  • Joy

    Having 18 cats doesn’t make you a hoarder it could just mean that you were not smart enough to spay and neuter your cats before things got out of hand. 3 female cats can easily turn into 18 in less than a year.

    • Jennifer

      If you are not smart enough to realize that you will have to spay your female cats to prevent a population explosion….well, then you sure as hell don’t need to be having kids, either.

  • lily

    Umm remember when there were no seat belts in the back of the car and kids would climb over seats on the buses?

    Such bull. They shouldn’t be jailed unless they have a history and maybe checked out to make sure nothing else is wrong. All it looks like from this article is they were doing what they had to do. Seriously JAILED?

    Hope that family member who told knew what they were doing and it wasn’t just some stuck up thing…

  • anita creasey

    i dont unstand if you are down on your luck why do you have 18 cats cats cost to much i know i have 5 cats and they need food water and cat litter and that stuff cost and i want to know why did some of there family help them and tell on them. when i was in OKC we did not have nothing i have a choice as a mother do i let my kids and i life on the street or give my cats away to animals control and yes i cried a lot but we was in a place so we can cook food an be out of the cold your kids come first some time we have to lose thing to gain thing. and know i have a house an lots of land an it is all my a i got me some more cats but i can afford it know but it took a while but i think god for that. we have to use our head if not the devil will have us going around in circle if we do not watch out.

  • E Davenport

    Goodness. What has this country become when the poor can’t do what it takes to provide for their family. I’d have the same concerns.But no past history of abuse…? why not hook them up with some kind of emergency fund to get them their. At least one more American would be back at work. =)

    • Stella

      People like you should be locked up, with ignorant minds… Not people who make stupid choices under a lot of pressure, is human to make a mistake, but is sad to read that under the circumstances this family is going thru you post a comment like this.

      • Ann

        So it would have been OK with you if they had all died from carbon monoxide poisoning or gotten frost bite?

  • cortney

    Like really go great family memeber! If you were soooo concerned you should have tried to help them get there safely not call the cops on them,thus breaking up their family & making it harder for the parents to get employment. Very Sad

    • Ann

      Who would you have blamed if they had all died of carbon monoxide poisoning or gotten frost bite?

      • cortney

        You dumb ho of course they should have done something but is this what they should have done & im sure the issue wasnt as severe as people are making it out to be come on you can die from carbon monoxide poisoning from sleeping with the covers over your head Or passing gas where is the police many people do this everyday ! Yopu just like the family memeber who did this probally would do the same istead of seeing how “since thety were soooooo concerned” they could help these poor people do better & safely by their children & cats its like people who try act is because they say something nasty & mean sweetly & nice it isnt what it is . COME ON NOW



  • http://yahoo Jim

    Indiana is a big time police state. first they take away his job,take away his home. Reducing him and family to a truck. Now,they take away his kids and put him in jail. If that is not martial law I don’t know what is. That is how a police state works.

    • Ann

      Can you read? Why are you blaming Indiana for possibly saving lives. They came from Pennsylvania and they could have died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Use your head

  • lara

    Unfortunate decision to have made and quite a distance but still seems just a bit excessive. Now the job will be loss. Both parents are jailed. Kids are part of the system. What for? A news story. Now who will help them to get back on their feet? Likely they only have the truck for ten days also….they’ll have to start all over again. But you wonder do they go back home and continue to CA.. Where’s the snitch?

  • Jennifer

    Anyone can be “down on their luck,” I have certainly been there before…..but come on! Its called PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!!!! If it is unsafe and inhumane to make your kids ride in the back of an unheated van all the way to CA, then you just don’t do it. Period. You get creative and search for another solution, there is help out there for temporary situations like that, so there are no excuses for making stupid “shortcuts” like this. Why 18 cats, BTW??? Can’t feed your kids, but you can afford catfood? HUH!?!? These “parents” have set themselves and their family up for hardship from day one……first by having SEVEN kids to begin with! To those religious nuts out there who would shout at me not to judge that, and God will provide, yadda yadda…..then go back and re-read your bible. Ya know, the part about “thou shall not tempt your God, etc.” While it’s great to have faith in God during hard times, because when all else fails, it IS HE that will provide…..but don’t be arrogant and live life willy-nilly, having too many mouths for your personal finances to keep fed, and then expect God to come to your rescue because your too damn lazy to use birth control and think ahead about the consequenses of your actions. Nobody needs to pop out seven kids, and nobody needs to hoard cats, period. To all of you who would accuse me of being heartless and judgemental, that is just your problem. I am only pointing out that the world needs a serious dose of common sense and personal responsibility!!!!! So don’t even bother trying to tell me off for this post ’cause I wont respond.

    • kay voss

      Very well said!!!

  • Janice

    For the people who are commenting about how many cats a person has–they never stated whether some of those cats are kittens. If a mother cat just had a litter that can be up to 7 babies (maybe more, maybe less). It would explain why they took so many cats with them–you can’t separate the babies from the mother for at least 7 weeks. They don’t need food because of the milk from the mother.

    It may be possible these people have 18 cats but it may ALSO be possible that some of those said cats are really kittens. If the later is the case then I find nothing wrong with their priorities. In fact, they can sell the kittens for money.

    As far as the “concerned family member” goes: I wonder why they didn’t offer to help drive the family to Penn. in the first place. Maybe it’s because their priorities aren’t straight.

    • Ann

      Or maybe the ‘concerned family member’ is also unemployed and couldn’t help. At least they are ALIVE!!!

  • elle

    I live paycheck to paycheck but would give a few bucks to help those kids and cats out if there were a fund started. Facebook?

  • JoeThePimpernel

    There is no situation so bad that you can’t make worse by calling the cops.

    Cops are nothing but union goons/gangbangers with badges.

  • romey

    Those parents are imbuciles. They should have made a cross-country meow mix commercial! They had all the right ingredients except for the cameras to tape it.

  • Teresa

    I don’t understand why they would take these children from their parents when they were just trying to make a way to provide for them the best way they can. Why don’t they take the money they will give foster parents to take care of these children and help this family back on it’s feet and keep this family together instead of breaking them apart?

  • Jane

    Wow, this is terrible. I understand being down on your luck. Sometimes when people are depserate they make irrational decisions but now this man and his wife are in jail…their children already scared that they are are probably in custody of the system…the man probably lost all chances of getting that job let alone ANY JOB now because of this arrest! And for this concerned snitch…I mean family member…that person probably snitched solely for the reasons of selling out this story. If he/she was so concerned, why didn’t they help in the move knowing there are children involved.

  • Kathleen

    What ever happened to compassion? This is a family who, in spite of their struggles, have made the commitment to stay together and try to make things better for themselves. Was it an unwise decision to put five kids in the back of a moving van? Yes. Should the parents be jailed for that decision? No. Maybe the relative who reported them could have sprung for a few bus tickets for the adult child and the other four to travel to California separately. Maybe that’s what we all should be thinking about doing right now! How can we help?

  • joie

    Wow that was fxxxing stupid!!!! Find a way don’t put your kids in danger!!!!

  • Perry

    Yes, it was unwise to put living creatures in the van, why wasn’t there someone helping them find resources? Was there no social services in their community who could list resources for them? But for the police to arrest them is adding injury to injury. Maybe the social services will find a way to reunite the family, instead of further punishing them. HOPE AND CHANGE, RIGHT??

  • LauraMaxy

    Truly this is a terrible story to even read. For one, having 18 cats, and trying to feed your own children plus the cats is overwhelming for any person to have any MONEY. For the parents, you need to look out for your kids. How could you do this to your innocent children who dearly need you and at this time of year. The family member whom reported, you could have done better than what you laid down upon them. We as a whole (people) don’t care about other people and seems anything but to help out in better way than you did! Remember, what you put out — is what you get back! To all involved — seek help — seek how you can help your family — than destroying them! Most of all Seek GOD !!! Truly a Sad World Today

  • Ann

    For all of you that are so down on the family member, you don’t know their circumstances. Maybe they tried to talk them out of it. Maybe they too are unemployed and couldn’t help them. This person chose to keep them ALIVE!!! There was also a huge possibility of frost bite. The children may have been taken away, but at least they are now warm, well fed and have a place to sleep…or yeah and they are ALIVE!!!



  • DJ

    Indiana seems to jail people for the slightest thing. It was was not wise to have people riding in the back of a moving van, but I have seen it before with my work with homeless families in CA. I also think that the family should have found homes for the cats before they left town. The family I helped had 5 dogs and 5 kids in the back of their moving van. We didn’t arrest them, we helped them through a church funded volunteer organization to get back on their feet.

  • Janice

    Also to anyone fussing about how many kids this family has I need to respond to you. Honestly, there are some families that get twins FREQUENTLY. They’ll have one or two kids singlely then one day BAM! Twins or triplets. You can’t help that nor can you control it.

    There are good parents in this world that really do try to provide the best for their children no matter how many they have. I know one couple that has ended up with two sets of twins. They were originally shooting for two, three tops. Now they have an extra mouth to feed but it doesn’t matter because the kids are just wonderful. It’s hard financially for them but with help from their families and friends they make it. And most importantly, they love their children. Now this family did make a mistake but it’s obvious from the lack of help this “concerned family member” offered (aka NOT offering to help the family move) does NOT care about the family or the children. Even if they couldn’t have drove the kids they could have at least offered money for a rental or something. I don’t make much money but I’d do everything I could if one of my family members had children and this was the last chance at getting a good job. My whole family would be the same. It’s ridiculous that no help seems to have been offered. And to arrest them? Really? Other people get away with worse things. It was a stupid idea, sure, but I don’t think it’s wise to separate these kids from their parents. I also don’t think it was wise to make the poor man miss his only chance at a job. The police should at least let the man go to his interview or whatever. Just monitor the man that’s all.

    • RJ

      Well said, I agree with you.

    • foxmulder241

      In this day and age it crazy for people have more then one unless they have multiples the first which they have no control over.

      There is over seven billion people and is over populated and resources are be coming limited, it’s time people either cut back on doing it or get spayed or neutered.

      This what Bob Barker should have said at the end of The price Is Right “This Bob Barker reminding you help control the human population and save resources have yourself spayed or neutered”

    • lisa

      well if someone has a set of twins or triplets they should think twice before having more, if they cant afford them then they need to ask family for help.

  • CF

    Way to traumatize the kids by taking them into Child Protective Services. The parents were unwise, but not intentionally harming their children. How many times did we as children ride in the back of an open pickup truck (I grew up in a rural county) or ride in the car without (gasp) seat belts? Come on. Education is needed here, not discipline.

    • Lynne

      Well said!

  • Lynne

    Absolutely ridiculous to jail them and put the kids in child protective services. How about using those government resources to help them get there safely? Charge them a fine that they can pay over time if you have to “punish” them. Just another example of how you’re screwed in this country if you’re poor.

    • foxmulder241

      CPS is more dangerous then the parents it a fact CPS is full of sexual predators and abusive people, Maybe CPS was down on the quota because they get paid to take kids and lots of times they even sell the kids

      • Illinois41

        Since when does CPS have quotas and get commission to take kids? Selling kids? Are u serious? If you don’t know what you’re talking about, please don’t say anything.

        • laura

          Better read up on CPS. They DO get money for placing kids in foster homes and the foster parents also prosper by taking the kids in. It’s a child abuse ring that people need to wake the f’k up and stop seeing these private agencies as there to help. They oftentimes make things worse for parents than better.

          • SMDH

            CPS also receives an ave. of $25,000 in funding per child placed with an adoptive family.

            Aunt and uncle were foster parents who adopted. They finally got out of fostering because they couldn’t handle the corruption and callousness of the system, anymore. It was too infuriating and heartbreaking.

  • romey

    Just goes to show…..all the world’s problems CAN BE solved. The answer? Remington 12 guage!! :)

  • Charlotte

    I think this family was trying to make it better for all, including the 18 cats. They were probably on their way to the relative – who called the police. If the relative did not want them there – that’s all they should have said, then the family could have made other arrangements. If I had to transport my family that way – I would have just put holes in the side of the truck – to do what I had to do. The relative is an a%%hole.

  • foxmulder241

    “after an anonymous tip was called in to an Indiana State Police station by a concerned family member, letting them know the group was heading their way from Pennsylvania”

    Sounds like family member was just mad and wanted to start trouble with family like that who needs enemies

    • Linda Van Kirk

      If the family member was so concerned about the entire family’s welfare, why didn’t they offer to help with the move so they could improve their lives? Some people just thrive on controversy. And why anonymous if they were so concerned? All they did was cause more trauma for the very people the were “concerned” about.

      • SMDH

        Turns out (posted above by someone who actually knows/is part of the family and has physical proof) that it was a vindictive and controlling grandparent unwilling to allow them to go with the children.

        When the rest of the family helped them out as much as they could (ie rented the truck, helped them pack, and get the kids and cats into the back and off on their way) the grandparents called it in to the cops in Indiana out of spite. Which they warned them would happen if they tried to leave.

  • janeese

    Really it sounds totally TOTALLY like the law overstepped its bounds. I’ve spent time in the back of a Uhaul moving back from college and I didn’t die. This is where I say, less government. No one was hurt, no one was being abused, and a family was trying to make a better life for themselves. Now the kids are traumatized and you’ve put them in the “system”. Great job Indiana. Way to pop a family’s balloon of hope.

    • http://yahoo.com nicole

      I agree janeese, the family was trying the make the best of a bad situation and now indiana’s finest have made the situation worse….!!!!

  • Rebecca Shepard

    Honestly, Can’t you find some real crime to focus on instead of a family who is down on their luck, and no family to trust to help them get to where they need to go. Shame on you police officials and extended family members of these folks. To the police official, GO FIGHT SOME REAL CRIME. TO THE EXTENDED FAMILY MEMBERS I HOPE THIS FAMILY NEVER TALKS TO YOU AGAIN, and may someday you fall on your luck and find your self f*****.

  • http://yahoo MIA

    they let child abusers kill their kids and get away scott free, then jail these people who made a bad judgement, traumatizing their kids and pets. Next time, leave the side door open for air or the back partially rolled up???. seems A-HOLES run in every community and family. WHY DIDNT THE SNITCH JUST GIVE THEM A LITTLE MONEY INSTEAD AND HELP THEM OUT??? it would be cheaper to give these people train tickets to Cali than to jail them and put all their kids and pets up by the state. Real bad criminals there, how dare you transport kids outside of their crates with no kitty litter available!!!

  • rebecca

    who cares how many kids they heve?!?! i say kuddos to the parents for having the brain to try and better their lives. they clearly all had to travel together with not having a car to follow behind it with the other kids…. heres another round of applause to the fact that there was an ADULT in the back with the children

    • lisa

      It was there adult kid in the back. Read the whole story

  • JF

    I can relate to this. After losing my father in 2000, I was kicked to the curb by Sheriff’s and the truck repossessed due to them being in my father’s name and having a greedy brother who decided he wanted everything. With nowhere to go and only a few hundred to live on and a chance to start over 2000 miles away…..I rented a U-haul and dragged the kids, 3 pitbulls and 8 cats across country. Everyone wanted to stay in the back to make sure the animals were all good and complete with a walkie talkie we made it to our destination after stopping every few hundred miles to do usual potty brakes. I knew it was illegal, but what was I to do? Maybe U-haul should design the moving vans with a door behind the cab for this purpose. I am sure it has been done many times before. Luckily, I had a car and a place to live waiting when I got there, Ist had to get there. Imagine the people who don’t.

    • wendy

      life is tough, and you gotta do what you gotta do. People don’t care enough to help but they’ll drop that dime as they are sitting in their cozy homes in front of ther tv’s chowing on that drumstick, watching you freeze in flip flops and a hoodie in sub zero degrees. They will pretend to give a damn, if they really did they would rent you a car, So sick of do gooders, who are willing to tear families apart. I say if you are not going to do anything to HELP then shut you mouth and look the other way, people are trying thier best, it may not reach your standards but maybe it’s the best they can do.

  • http://WPN Dian

    I thought this was the “giving season” adopt a family, red kettles, toys for tots, etc….evidently NOT in Indiana

    • lisa

      If they dont ask for help, no one knows they need it

  • cecilia thompon

    its a real shame that the person that turned them in couldn’t of help in alot better ways then they did God bless people i pray for the best for the family

    • Tee Bee

      “could have,” “better ways thAn,” and if god was going to bless them, why didn’t he do it before they had to pack up what little they had and move across the country on just the hope of a job?

  • betty zien

    they should help them out rent them a car or bus for them and its not little ones by there self in back of the van and sometimes, we have to do what we can to get by why don’t u get out there and get the ones are really hurting baby’s

  • Lexi Smart

    Ever heard of give until it hurts? That means you help until you can’t help anymore. But you never hurt. Calling authorities was just hurt piled on top of hurt. And the fact that the father said he knew it was a bad idea…oh come on, what was he supposed to say? He thought it was a GOOD idea? He was going for broke trying to hold his family together in an unprecedented economy. The only thing I took from this was as others have said the pretentiousness of the family member who felt bound to report instead of digging in and helping.

  • http://yahoo jennifer strong

    Unbelievable. This family is trying to make an a huge move to better their lives, they have their cats crated & are taking them with them,
    there is not enough room in the cab for everyone. Do authorities expect them to pay for more luxury accommodations for this very brave trip. These people need a round of applause not the police harrasing
    them & putting the children in social services. SOMEBODY NEEDS TO HELP

    • Mon

      Get the thought that they were trying to get it right…but if you are struggling….don’t ya think 18 cats are a bit much….and 7 kids are a lot in this day and time, although it is their right…18 cats with no job and putting kids in the back of a moving van tells me that there’s something missing upstairs…ya know???

  • crystal

    18 cats!!! why on God’s green earth would they have 18 cats? 1, 2, maybe 3 cats, but they could have used the money to feed those cats on the kids, bills, or a car payment for a car to haul the other chidren. Why didnt they contact local churches and other agencies for help? Honestly I don’t think these parents even thought anything through before leaving. They never should have taken the cats with them. I understand that animals become part of your family but your children come first always.

  • Yesyou

    7 kids, Dad and Mom unemployed?

    How about using some birth control?

    That’s way cheaper than having to move.


    • lisa

      I agree

    • SMDH

      All the kids were possibly/probably born before the economy completely tanked. Before the parents lost their jobs. And, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were Catholic (btw, the largest religious denomination in PA, with Protestants — and /their/ huge families — second)… which means birth control is /not/ an option.

      Personally have three kids of my own, not a one of them planned. All three were conceived whilst using birth control, and dad was “fixed” years before the third one came along. Birth control… ANY form of birth control (aside from total abstinence) is /not/ 100% effective.


  • Vicki Lynn

    This is very serious. Praise God everyone is safe. Question is, What should have this family done ? We are living in desperate times. I,m sure a winter living under the bridge ,would have been equally as dangerous for his family. I hope the community and police force will take up a donation. Hopefully help this family safely on their way. They probly won’t. They will loose their animals. They will have to fight for their kids. Our officers motto is ” To protect and serve”. They don,t do much of either. They are rude, mean,They all act like Comando want to be’s. Paranoia and aggression has filled their hearts. Our country would never have maid it thru the,Dust bowl ,Depression,cival right riots of the 60-70’s with attitudes like officers have today. Sad. I am still proud of my family’s generations of law enforcement in the past. I am equally proud none of my family has chose to carry on our tradition. It ain’t the same. Goodluck to this family. I will put them and others in my prayers.

    • lisa

      why dont you just give them your life savings and get them back on their feet. alot of us are in the same boat they are but dont put your kids lives in danger they could of asked other family members for help. Those kids could of died from carbon monoxide fumes

      • Nikki

        Obviously they COULDN’T have asked other family members for help, as their “family members” were the one’s who put them on the spot in the first place.. I agree with Vicki, would you have rather seen all 9 of them living under a bridge, begging for money and stealing? At least the poor guy was TRYING to do right by his family and get a job, ANY JOB, and keep his family together. Many men out there just ditch their families and go off to be with other women and don’t even attempt to help out their own flesh and blood. Be grateful that this man was trying to do what was best for his family.
        My father is currently living in a friends garage with no utilities, water, etc… He has a heater that runs off of Kerosene. He is PROBABLY more at risk of death than the kids were in the back of that van. When my Mother divorced him, he kinda went on a downward spiral, she took the house, cars, kids, etc… Left him with NOTHING! Now that I’m an adult and have my own place, I’d LOVE to take him in, but I truly do not have the space, as I only have a 2 bedroom home and 3 young children.
        Keep in mind also that the bottles of gas or whatever were capped off! It’s not like the parents took the caps off and said “Hey kids, get a whif of this!”. I believe that they were doing the best that they could the only way that they knew how. Good luck to them and God Bless them all. I hope that they get back together before the holidays, but the way our legal system is here in the US, they most likely will not. It’s very sad.

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