FAIRMONT CITY (KDKA) — A Clarion County couple is now behind bars in the state of Indiana, accused of loading their children and a bunch of cats into the back of a moving truck and heading west.
The father told police he lost his job and was moving to California, but relatives tipped off police and officers caught up with the truck on the interstate in Indiana.
The couple and their seven children lived in a small community called Fairmont City in Clarion County. They told state police in Indiana that they were down their luck when they were stopped overnight.
On Brookville Street, the bright November moon lit up the night sky Thursday shining down on the abandoned home Dave and Rebecca Detjen left behind as they headed west in a rented truck to start a new life.
The upstairs lights in the house were still on.
“They were loading up all day,” said Stephanie McCullough, a neighbor. “They loaded up for like a half hour and they left, and then the truck came back and I guess they left in the middle of the night, maybe that’s cause they had the kids in the back, I don’t know.”
When state police in Indiana pulled over the budget box truck, they found five of the Detjen’s seven children in the unheated back of the truck, which was also loaded with boxes of clothes, toys and other family belongings and the family pets.
Police counted a total of 18 cats in the back of the truck.
“They were never really good neighbors to even start with,” said Melissa Cordwell, another neighbor.
Back in the neighborhood the Detjen’s left behind, the residents KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti talked to painted a picture of the family that was less than flattering.
“He didn’t really do a whole lot for his kids, you know, you could see that they were neglected,” Cordwell added.
“We had caught their daughter in our yard, in our cars, like supposedly looking for her cat; we don’t think that was a reason,” said Angela Cordwell, another neighbor.
“The kids were really nice; the kids were polite,” Chad Crissman, another neighbor, said. “The parents were just a little awkward, I guess you could say.”
The Detjens are locked up in an Indiana jail facing preliminary charges of child neglect. Their underage children are now in protective custody.