Local

Young kids found alone in school bus

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Authorities are investigating a case of two young children found on their own in an abandoned school bus near Splendora in southeast Montgomery County.

It is a bus jerry-rigged with electricity and an air conditioning unit. Authorities say it was home for an 11-year-old girl and her five-year-old brother since 2009. But what's really hard to believe is that investigators say the kids have basically lived here alone since the beginning of the year, when their parents went to federal prison for fraud.

"Where I think it crosses the line is the living environment. The kids were obviously physically unkempt," said Constable Rowdy Hayden with Montgomery County Precinct 4. "That crosses the threshold for me."

Officials say the children's parents conspired to embezzle money from victims of Hurricane Ike in 2008 by assisting them in obtaining a Small Business Association (SBA) loan for the repairs to the damage the victims' house sustained during the hurricane. They were charged with conspiracy and pleaded guilty in June 2011. In January, the father was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The children's mother received the same prison term at her sentencing in February.

Montgomery County authorities were called out to this bus by a concerned citizen, worried about the welfare of the kids. Investigators discovered that an aunt does come in the evenings and stay with the children, but since she works, they are alone during the day.

"The aunt's working, and trying to make a life for these kids. As law enforcement I believe it's our duty to try to help them help these kids get into a better living environment," Constable Hayden said.

The children are said to be home-schooled, but it's unclear exactly who is doing the educating. The siblings are alone at the bus for at least 12 hours every day.

"The aunt said that she does provide meals for them during the day," said Constable Hayden. "Looking around the house, we didn't see a lot of food readily available. One of the neighbors had told us earlier that from time to time she will bring food over for the children."

After hours of interviews, Child Protective Services took temporary custody of the brother and sister. They are in foster care for now.

"Our investigation has just started," explained CPS spokesperson Gwen Carter. "We are trying to make sure the kids are safe and trying to understand what family members there are in the community who they know, and what's going on with the family."

A court hearing regarding custody of the children will be held on Thursday. Their aunt declined to comment to Eyewitness News.
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On Thursday, relatives spoke to Eyewitness News. Get the latest on this developing story.

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splendora, local, miya shay
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