Supporters rally around Joshua Tree couple accused of child abuse

JOSHUA TREE, Calif. (KABC) -- Supporters of the Joshua Tree couple accused of abusing their three children after authorities discovered the family living in a makeshift shelter held a protest outside the San Bernardino County courthouse Wednesday morning.

They say the couple is only guilty of being poor.

Mona Kirk and Daniel Panico headed into court for their preliminary hearing flanked by their supporters.

"I hope they drop all charges today," said Panico.

But the outcome they had hoped for didn't happen.

Instead, prosecutors asked a judge for more time preparing their case in order to gather discovery and get witnesses.

For now the couple is only allowed to visit their children on weekends under supervision.

"This case hasn't been dismissed, it hasn't been dropped. It should have been and they are just continuing to drag it out," said Jackie Klear, a friend of the family.

In February, Kirk and Panico were arrested after authorities found them living with their children in squalor in what they said was a box.

"They are moved into the house," said Klear. "So that is a big plus."

The home was purchased for the couple through a GoFundMe account and refurbished with the help of volunteers.

But the couple is facing another challenge. They have been ordered to clean up the property they own and lived on in 30 days.

"I have doubts about making this deadline... They are going to get hefty fines if we don't get that land cleaned up," said Klear.

She is hoping to organize volunteers to help with the major cleanup.

The couple is due back in court on May 2.
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