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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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  • Catherine

    All to often when pepole do stupid things out of desperation the first responce by the goverment is to punish them when what they realy need is help and guidence.

  • RonaldZuprin

    I’m guessing they held a “downsizing lottery” within the family … the 2 winners were sitting in the cab. The expendable “losers”, along with the 18 cats, got to ride in the back. Times are tough … it’s either that, or get sent off to be used in scientific experiments.

  • http://webpronews spunky

    This is a horrible situation!! i feel for the family and animals but it wasnt to safe for any of them. you dont just give up animals as they become family!! you dont throw them away that easy, not if you love animals but it really wasnt safe. compassion, where has it gone to??

  • Nikki

    At least the poor man was TRYING to make an effort to support his huge family! There are many men out there who just ditch their partner as soon as they discover that she is pregnant. This man has (sorry, HAD) 7 innocent children. At least what he was doing was in the best interest of his family.
    No matter what this couple would have done, they would have gotten into trouble in some way. He could’ve tried to sqeeze all of the kids in the front of the cab and would’ve gotten pulled over and arrested for not having seatbelts, etc. OR he could’ve placed them all on buses and risked them getting separated and it would STILL be illegal to have minors traveling accross country without a parent… I guess that the mother could have gone with them, that would have been the logical thing to do… BUT if you’re low on cash and just dished out a fortune to get across the country in a moving, then they probably did not have the money to afford other various methods of transportation. The article even states that they had no car, so this was the only logical thing that the man could probably even think of.
    As for ALL of those cats, I really don’t understand that part… I really do feel for the family (children AND parents), but all those cats? Why on Earth do they need 2 cats for every person? 18 cats and 9 people.. If you have little money, you really don’t need that many animals. They SHOULD have be worrying about using what little expenses they had to help care for, feed and clothe, their children. Also, I actually do not even think that it is legal for a person to own that many cats in the first place. They should have let some of them go, I guess not to their family though because they sure don’t seem like they truly give a crap…
    I just pray that the courts are easy on them and let them get their family back together. OR, at the very least, let the adult child have partial custody of them in the mean time until the parents are released, instead of having them in foster care, all alone and scared. I cannot imagine if this were my family. I also hope that the job that he had lined up will still take him into their company. Now that he’s been arrested, they may not. It’s actually very hard to get a job these days if you have ANY type of criminal record.

    • Nancy

      They can’t have been that poor. It takes money to feed 18 CATS.

  • Ivan GMS

    “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.”
    What an A-hole family member. Not only did they snitch but didnt eve try to avoid this problem by offering help. They knew the family was down and they knew what was going on and instead of helping they got them in even more trouble and most likely ruined their lives even more or possibly helped ruined their lives permanently.

  • Maxi

    Instead of condemning this family for doing what they did (granted they have made poor choices)…is there a fund being set up to help them? It is the Xmas season and we should hate to see a family without a Xmas tree and food and presents for the kids. Any ideas?

  • angelic

    We go from a police man in NYC buying boots for a homeless man to dividing awhole family during sposedly the most charatable caring/loving season of the year….
    We all need help ….I pray the judge will help find a way to keep the family together and a chance to help them in some way…
    AND to the person (family) who turned them in…..where is your sence of FAMILY!!!! That was maybe Gods way of getting you to help not hinder a family.

  • Agent P

    So how does it feel to live in the ‘Snitch Society’…? I’m surprised they didn’t call out a SWAT team to apprehend these dangerous criminal parents… That this ‘incident’ even made news should tell you something. It should tell you that your Freedom and Liberty are now being (Rapidly) taken away, as opposed to a decade or two ago, ‘slowly’. Alas, this is how it happens when a nation slides into decline. We are now in the later stages and you haven’t seen Anything yet… Good luck to all of you out there that are ‘cheering’ the apprehension and likely prosecution of these parents, and what might happen to their children as a result, because when this monster comes your way, there won’t be anyone around to help You…

  • nichole

    What an asshole of this “concerned” family member ! At least they were TRYING. They didn’t ditch the kids, an they were traveling bc of a promised job ! They didn’t need more problems to add to an already bad situation. Arresting them was not the answer ! ..and screw that family member..if they were so concerned they should have been trying to help, instead they did more damage..

    • http://zeroner popzeros

      fgseyriyp89iu

    • Michelle

      That’s what I was thinking. “Gee thanks for the help!” How many people get down on their luck and are just trying to do the best they can….and make decisions that may or may not be the best one…only to have family ADD to their misery?! They didn’t dump the kids….they didn’t hurt the kids out of desperation…That family member should be ashamed of themselves – I hope they make it into the news!!!!!!!

  • angelic

    So now a donation to help them should be headed up…..I am in the same situation sorta…with out a real home from taking care of my very sick parent in another state. But I do have a roof and a job….i have kids and grandkids that count on me….but I would definately try and give some.

  • Skippy Skip

    Don’t get me wrong, I really do feel bad for the family and I’m glad the father was at least trying. And I think the relative who tipped off the police really screwed things up worse. But nine children and eighteen cats? Are you serious?

    If you can’t afford that many children, you shouldn’t have that many. I realize with the father out of work it would have been tough even with three children and one pet, people have to understand something. Children and pets are not objects, you don’t just collect them, you have to care for them. You have to love them enough to know when you just can’t take care of them all.

    I’ve seen anti-abortion people with bumper stickers that say “How Can There Be Too Many Children? That’s Like Saying There Are Too Many Flowers.” Children, pets, and yes, even flowers, require resources and nuturing, and those cost time and money. Again, I’m glad that the family stays together and at least they’re trying. But if you’re not rich, and you don’t have $100,000 set aside in case of an emergency like losing your job, you should not have that many children.

    • Terri

      @skippy skip, so when you’ve had the kids, and then you lose your job, how are you supposed to pick which kids to give up since you can’t afford them anymore? idiot…

      • Steph

        Skippy – you’re seriously an idiot. Unless you have a crystal ball that reads your future, how the hell was he to know his destiny? Seriously, it’s people like you that I just want to slap reality into…….

    • Mickey Steve

      So who died and appointed you God, Skippy Skip? Or are you standing in for the Chinese when they attempt to destroy us through Armegeddon? This all smacks of the great Socialist takeover of the free world. Word up. Jesus IS coming back shortly, so put your own house in order first.

    • Paul Ray

      Serously? And who died and gave you the right to make that kind of decision? Moron!

  • lisa b

    Many of us have made some crazy stupid and bad decisions. I have learned not to judge anyone. Life has a funny way of biting you back when you do judge people (I have learned). Karma. The father as crazy as it was took a risk but this man took responsibilty for his family and their cats. Whether society likes it or not That is his family including the pets and that is none of our business. This man was trying to get to a job. In caring for pets and working with agencies, its only $50.00 a month to feed 20 cats. Cats prevent Plagues (look up the history) and they are good rat catchers too. I love people and all animals. Yes he made a bad decision and he has learned his lesson. Do a random act of kindness.

    • Steph

      Well said, Lisa! This man was doing the only thing he could to try to keep his family off the streets. He admitted he knew it was wrong, but what other options were there? People, unless you have been in this exact situation, who the hell are you to judge? Plus, I find it VERY HONORABLE what he did with his cats. Seeing that I have 12 homeless, left behind cats that I feed on my porch, I applaud this man for at least trying.

  • Lisa

    If the family member was so concerned why didnt they keep the kids with them until the dad got the job in Cali and could send for them? that is what concerned family does, they help each other.

  • http://ms1.gotdns.com jonny rocket

    what the heck else were they suppose to eat???

  • Paul Ray

    Unwise, but honestly did they have any alternative? And arresting them is down right stupid. Police officers these days (and my Dad was one back in the 70′s) really have no sense of understanding or compromise. Shame on them.

  • Michelle

    I don’t think that the kids should have been taken away. We also don’t know if the kids would have been safe or not riding in the back. although i’m pretty sure that they would be fine. He should have all the kids in front, cats in back. With no air circulating, in’t hard to say. I think that the state should help them with the first month to relocate. It is hard having that many kids, and the parents are trying. I agree, don’t nark, but people should have a heart to try and help with what they can, not to make it worse. I pray they get thier kids back soon.

    • laura

      indiegogo has set them up a fund, my link is waiting for moderation here.
      it’s called help this family and their cats

  • Renee

    I am truly surprised at the empathy this family is getting online (there are many sites reporting on this story and comments following). I figured people would be asking for the parents to fry or something. Maybe it’s the holiday season? There are two funds set up to help this family, google some of the other stories to find the links, I would make sure they are legit for sure!
    We can’t judge their financial situation for taking their 18 cats (all in cat carriers btw). Perhaps they sold eveerything they own, leaving money for the truck, some food, gas and cat litter/cat food, and the cell phones. About the number of kids, who knows what jobs were held over the last 19 years of this marriage. When I lost my job, our household income went down by 67%, we lost everything. And Skippy Skip my 401K, pension and savings went to continue services for our child with Autism. Our services are not cut by 80% not covered by insurance and the county funds the rest. Sorry ya’ll but its the hard reality out there. This family should spend the holidays at the White House, not jail. Lets see how Mr. Obama can move them ‘FORWARD’.

  • cieme

    The family is down on their luck and trying to get cross country for a promised job. So they get stopped,their kids and their pets taken away and the parents may go to jail. These people need help getting back on their feet. At least they seemed to be trying to hold their family together. What ever happened to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you?”

  • gary

    This does not fly with me.

    18 Cats. If they are so down on their luck how are they caring for 18 cats. Who has 18 cats? And I do not care what the sad story is you do not put your kids in the back of a moving van for a cross country trip in the cold and possible carbon monoxide. I know allot of people in this thread are somehow empathetic with them but this is simply poor decision making. I do not think they should never see their kids again but maybe they temporarily need a break and get their life straight. I hope they learned from this and get reunited with their kids. They do not sound like an evil couple but they need some lesson in derision making.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/robert-reid/36/4b8/b48 Robert Reid

    Taking a snapshot in time about this families hard luck will lead to a lot of unfair assumptions and judgements. This is a difficult situation across the board. While many would like to have seen more compassion from the State Police the fact is our litigious society does not permit it. Had the officers not arrested and placed charges and the parents turned around the next day to do the same thing the officers would have likely lost their jobs and been sued. I cannot say what efforts to prevent this matter were taken by the family member, about whom some refer to as the snitch; nevertheless, whatever led up to the bad decissions at the time of arrest the actions taken were necessary for the protection of the minors who were the most likely to suffer consecquence of faulty decission making. As bad as the situation is, it is far better than getting down the road and getting into a tragic accident or having the kids die from carbon monoxide. The opportunity now ids for a community to help lift this family from the depths of their disparring situation. That action is far better than sitting back and throwing stones.

    • lisa b

      I agree. It is nice to see the caring, compassion you and others have posted on this site regarding this family. You are sooo right. It is amazing how people sit back and throw stones. Hats off to you Robert and the other compassionate commenters.

  • Dave

    I am very pleasantly surprised as the outpouring of supportive comments on this article, instead of the usual negativity that so many people feel the need to spread. I applaud this man for trying to do what he felt was necessary to improve life for his family. I’m so sorry that he was arrested for it. Remember, 40 years ago there was nothing wrong with this. Did it all of a sudden become deplorable.

    • http://yahoo.com Twila Davis

      I agree.

  • Bruce

    That was a dumb ass move, period. 18 cats, seriously. I would have sold all those mangy felines for some cash. On another note, where is all that money they spent on this presidential election and recent powerball? They could use the help, as everybody else living under minimum wage!!!

    • http://yahoo.com Twila Davis

      When you have all those kids, why do you need even one pet? can you imagine what they spend on catfood?

  • Martha

    I hurt for this family. You know every last dollar was spent by them on this move for what amounts to a mere promise of a job. The fact that they were moving 18 cats with them tells me that their hearts are bigger than their wallet and they couldn’t bear to leave any part of their little family behind. Now everyone’s scattered to the wind all because they took a shot at improving their lot in life. And here I am…wondering what can be done in their behalf?

    • Kevin

      Martha, it’s like you read my mind. I moved my family to Tennessee in much the same fashion. 6 people and 4 dogs piled into a small SUV. I wish I had more info so I could help those guys out.

      • Cindy Balzomo

        The local Salvation army is appratly collecting donations. This would be the best bet

  • marvin nubwaxer

    before they continue onward at least leave the 18 cats at the animal shelter.

  • Kevin

    I spent a good chunk of my youth in the back of my dad’s pick-up. I can’t believe these brainless morons would break up a family over this. That is heartbreaking. Child Protective Services???? What a bunch of criminals. Professional Child Abusers is what they are. This family is NOT better off now.

  • http://Yahoo Dave

    Now I understand the true meaning of “California or Bust”
    Something good always comes comes out of something bad. I hope the family finds their something good real soon.

  • alain smithee

    Thanks to an inflexible and rigid applicaton of the law, these parents age going to be felons, which is going to markedly interfere with their ability to support themsleves and their chilren.

    If the local prosecutor has any compassion at all, he will strike a plea deal for misdemeanors.

    This will send the message that this type of behavior is unacceptiable under our current laws while avoiding making the parents into felons that will interfere with their ability to get and hold a job to support themselves and their children.

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