Five siblings, 18 cats found in back of box truck along I-70 - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Five siblings, 18 cats found in back of box truck along I-70

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Indiana State Police photo Indiana State Police photo
The Detjen family The Detjen family
NEW CASTLE -

A Pennsylvania couple is likely facing neglect charges after five of their seven children were found in the back of a box truck along Interstate 70 Wednesday night.

Indiana State Police had received an anonymous phone call from a relative in Pennsylvania that there was a Budget rental box truck approaching the Ohio-Indiana border on I-70 from the east. 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 located 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.

Child Protective Services was contacted to assist troopers at the scene.

The parents are being held at the Henry County jail facing a number of felony neglect charges.

The children were taken inside the truck stop to get warm and may be placed in the care of relatives.

The Henry County Prosecutor's Office was also notified.

"They knew it wasn't right, but I think they just did the best with what they had at the time. Of course, it's not good enough and they're going to jail," Bowling said.

The children will be reunited with other family members at a later date, Bowling added.

Animal Control officers were called to the scene to take the cats.

Hoosiers react

Terry Nichols lives on the other side of the state in tiny Russellville, Indiana. It's a town of around 500 people who know what it is like to experience hardship and they know a little bit about persevering and something just rubbed him wrong about this situation.

"When you lose you job. Lose your home and lose everything, what are you going to do? Well these people did the best they could," Nichols said. "Here is a family on hard times that gathered together the resources they have and make a run for the coast. They didn't ask for anyone's help, but they got stopped, put in jail, kids taken away from them, animals taken away, truck impounded.

Nichols says he sees this as a modern day "Grapes of Wrath" story that is becoming all too common.

"It's a bad situation. I am well aware of that, but they were leaving a bad situation hoping for a better one. They didn't ask for anyone's help, so they certainly didn't need anyone's interference," Nichols said.

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