Couple offered plea deal in box truck child neglect

Police say the couple had their children in the unheated truck in near-freezing conditions.
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A Pennsylvania couple accused of driving through Indiana with five of their children in the back of a box truck have been offered a plea deal.

David and Rebecca Detjen were stopped in Henry County in November after police found five children in the back of their box truck in near freezing conditions. The couple told police they were moving to California to start a new life.

Thursday, the Henry County Prosecutor offered them a plea deal of one count of neglect of dependent.

The prosecutor says they have one week to accept the plea.

Indiana State Police got an anonymous phone call from a relative in Pennsylvania about the Budget rental box truck approaching the Ohio-Indiana border on I-70 on a cold November night. The caller told police there were children in the back of the truck.

Trooper Nick Razor located the truck on the interstate near State Road 3 south of New Castle and followed it to the Flying J truck stop. The trooper found two children in the cab of the truck with the parents, David and Rebecca Detjen. Upon opening the cargo portion of the truck, Razor found four more children from ages nine to 17, plus an 18-year-old girl, also in the back of the truck.

He also discovered 18 cats in the back of the truck.

The family was reportedly moving to southern California from western Pennsylvania for a possible job lead for the father. The family has some Indiana ties. David Detjen is a 1990 graduate of Hagerstown High School in Henry County.

"They were cold. They were wearing jackets and they had sleeping bags, but they had no way of communicating with the parents in the front of the truck," said ISP Sgt. John Bowling.

Bowling says it was 32 degrees in New Castle when the children were discovered around 10 p.m. He said two of the children were sleeping on top of a stack of boxes in the back of the truck.