Three siblings were found wandering around barefoot in a Southern California desert on Wednesday morning, as temperatures had likely already reached the triple digits. The 7-year-old girl, and 6- and 5-year-old boys, had apparently been left outside in the scorching Mojave Desert by their mother and her boyfriend "for disciplinary purposes," according to a statement from the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department.
A passerby saw the children in Twentynine Palms in the late morning and alerted authorities, who estimated the three had been outside without shoes or water for at least 45 minutes.
The kids' mother, Mary Bell, 34, and her boyfriend, Gary Cassle, 29, were in their car, which was down the road from where they had left the children for punishment, sheriff's department spokesperson Cindy Bachman said. Bachman told reporters that the family currently lives in the car.
Bachman told an Associated Press reporter that though the children were close enough to the car for their parents to see them, “it was apparent they weren’t keeping a visual on them.”
Bell and Cassle appeared in court Friday, where they face charges of felony child abuse. They were being held in lieu of $100,000 bail, the Los Angeles Times reported.
None of the kids required medical attention and the three were put in the care of San Bernardino County family services.
In June, a 7-year-old Japanese boy spent a week roaming a mountain in northern Hokkaido after his parents left him at the side of the road in an effort to punish him for misbehavior. Yamato Tanooka's parents returned to where they had made the boy get out of the car to find him missing. Teams of rescuers set out to find the boy, who eventually wandered onto a military base three miles from where they had left him. Soldiers came across the exhausted boy, who was otherwise uninjured, while on a training exercise.