Parents In Jail, Siblings Found Living In Abandoned US School Bus

Splendora, Texas, March 8: Two children, a girl aged 11 and her brother aged five, were handed over to Child Protective Services, after they were found staying inside an abandoned school bus  on a garbage-strewn lot in Montgomery County on Wednesday, Houston Chronicle reported.

A postal worker, while making rounds along Three S street near Circle H found the siblings staying inside the bus, which had been converted into quarters, with bunk beds and a window-mounted AC. The children used to get what little food they could from another building in the lot.

The children's parents are believed to be Mark and Sherrie Shorten, both of Splendora, who were convicted in federal court in Louisiana of embezzling money from victims of Hurricane Ike in 2008.

According to prosecutors, Sherrie Shorten helped the victims obtain loans to repair storm damage. The loans were then deposited in a bank account to pay the contractor - her husband. They later emptied the account without finishing the work, officials said.

Both were sentenced to 18 months in prison early this year.

The postal worker left a message about the children with Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts.

Metts, in turn, passed the word along to Precinct 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden, who went to the scene himself.

The heavily wooded property where the bus is parked is dotted with signs warning against trespassers. Bicycles and toys lay scattered about, while a large mixed-breed dog slept under the bus.

Hayden found a woman on the property who is believed to be the children's great-aunt. The woman said she works a 12-hour shift Monday through Friday, but was always with the children at night.

"Whether she was there or not, they were being unsupervised for extended periods. It's not acceptable," Nash said.

The children said they were home-schooled and are not listed on the rolls at the Splendora Independent School District, officials said.

The girl and her brother were often seen running in the area at night.

"They always had dirty clothes on (and) no shoes, even in the winter," said Gayla Payne, who lives nearby.

The girl told Payne's daughter that she bathed only twice a week.

"The girl's hair was always messed up," said another neighbor, Myra Langston "She looks unkempt, like she doesn't shower."

Hayden called Child Protective Services, which has also launched an investigation.

CPS caseworkers are talking to family members to learn if a relative can provide adequate care for the children.

"It not, we'll take custody and place them in foster care," said Gwen Carter, a CPS spokeswoman.

There was no indication that either child had been physically abused, Carter said. "They just need to be cleaned up right now."