The Joshua Tree couple arrested and charged with child abuse after deputies found the property in disarray shares their story with KMIR News.
Daniel Panico and Mona Kirk were arrested and charged with felony child abuse. They say they’re feeling hopeful after the outpouring of love that has come their way.
Panico and Kirk saw their new home for the first time Tuesday. It’s a home purchased, fixed and furnished by donations from a GoFundMe page started by friend Jackie Klear.
“I dreamed that we would be together in a regular house,” Panico says, recalling his time behind bars and fighting back tears.
The pair, who has been married 17 years, says they have been living a nightmare.
“I came out of the fort and there were three deputies holding their guns out and screaming for the kids to come out,” recalls Kirk. “It was a little scary.”
The San Bernardino District Attorney charged them with felony child endangerment. They haven’t seen or spoken to their children since.
“It’s shocking,” says Panico. “We had no idea anything like this would ever happen.”
This caused an uproar. Community members have stood up for them. They’re pleading with the Board of Supervisors to stop criminalizing poverty and homelessness.
“My dreams are to have this law changed,” says Panico. “So people are not so easily wrenched from their — wherever they’re living. And children wrenched from their parents? It’s not right.”
They say they did try to get help, but because they did not have a physical address, they didn’t quality. Now they say the county is spending time and money to punish them for their hardship.
Panico says, "We’ve gone to so many trials, and hearings and stuff. It’s a big drain on resources.”
“Right?” echoes Kirk. “Why don’t they use that money to do things that help more?”
The family says they would always help other people who would walk by their home as they were coming out of jail, even during times when they didn’t have much. Kirk recalls a time Panico helped change a tire for a person who was on their way to court to fight for their children. Panico gave the driver a spare.
They say they never imagined they’d be the ones receiving the help.
“We appreciate it. We do appreciate everybody,” says Panico, fighting tears. “Thank you to everybody who has helped and donated.”
Kirk promises the family will give back.
Panico and Kirk have filed paperwork to be reunited with their children. Their attorney says this is the classic case of punishing the poor. Michael Kennedy believes his clients will be acquitted.
KMIR News reached out the District Attorney’s Office for comment, but at the time of publication, we have not heard back.