Parents sympathetic to Pennsylvania couple

A Pennsylvania couple was picked up for driving with five children in the back of a box truck.
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Parents in Indianapolis are expressing sympathy for a Pennsylvania couple facing neglect charges for traveling with their children in the back of a rental truck.

A state trooper found five children in the back of a box truck driven by David and Rebecca Detjen, who were moving the family to California for work. Investigators say they found three of the children sitting next to a freezer, so cold they could see their breath. Other children were lying down on top of boxes so they wouldn't hit the truck's ceiling.

Officers also found to gas cans near the children during the traffic stop off I-70 near New Castle Wednesday night.

Father David Burdine knows the law for traveling with children.

"They get thrown around, get in an accident, get hurt," if they're not in child safety seats, Burdine said.

Morgan Studer knows her eight-month-old son Colin must be in the back seat, facing rear.

"Safety of my child is the main thing," she said.

Both have trouble with Wednesday night's incident involving the Detjen family. Down on their luck and hoping to find a job in California, they risked loading their kids in the back of the rental truck.

When police pulled them over at a truck stop on SR 3 near I-70, they found a nine- and ten-year-old child in sleeping bags on top of a pile of boxes and appliances. Three others, ages 11, 17 and 18, were near the truck's rear door.

The truck was unheated, and reeked of cat waste from 18 pets in a box in the back.

The parents have been charged with neglect.

A state trooper told Eyewitness News Thursday it would even be illegal for adults to be riding unrestrained in the back of a truck.

A truck repair contractor on the south side of Indianapolis said he can only imagine how cold it was inside the truck on a 32-degree night. He said one of the big mistakes people make with rental trucks is misjudging how tall they are.

A truck in need of repair on his lot has a side wall collapsed into the cargo area. Similar damage in the Detjen's rental truck surely would have impacted the children.

Police and other videos show the Pennsylvania family is not the first to risk it.

The Henry County Sheriff says he's gotten calls from folks who want to help the family. Parents Burdine and Studer are sympathetic.

"Some people got to do what they got to do. But you know, they've got to be careful at the same time. I understand where they're coming from, but what if something had happened," Burdine said.

"I can empathize with that. It sounds like a tough situation, I don't know what choices they had," Studer said. "It really worries me for children, because children don't have a choice."

The Detjens will appear in court Friday. Their children were in protective care, but could be reunited with family in Pennsylvania.