Residents Rallying Behind Man & Wife Accused Of Child Abuse
ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) _ Supporters of a couple accused of abusing their three young children, found living in a bus, said Wednesday they have retained a lawyer, are establishing a fund and have offered them food.
Donald and Eva Monk were charged with three counts of child abuse after the discovery of their three children in a bus that state troopers said was littered with animal and human feces.
The family had been using the 20-foot bus as a home.
The children - a 4-year-old boy and girls 8 months and 3 years old - were taken from the bus and put in foster care.
″I don’t feel the county has a right to split up this family,″ said Mel Kuhens, owner of Mel’s Farm Market in Royalton Township.
Kuhens said he has offered free food to the Monks from his store, and that he had retained St. Joseph lawyer Peter Kosick to represent them.
Kosick was in a meeting and unavailable for comment, said a woman answering the telephone at his office.
The Monks, who have been released from the Berrien County Jail on $3,000 bond each, are to appear Feb. 7 at a preliminary hearing on the charges, each of which carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison and a $3,000 fine.
″I feel there was a flagrant abuse of American rights here,″ said Jim Scarlett, owner of an auto body shop in Berrien Center not far from the Monks’ home.
Scarlett, who said he has known the Monks for about three years, and Greg Prillwitz, a fruit farmer, posted bond for Monk. Mrs. Monk was released Tuesday but Prillwitz said he didn’t know who posted her bond.
Prillwitz said he and Scarlett planned to set up a fund to benefit the family.
″Greg and I have other things to do,″ said Scarlett. ″We have to support our own families. But I won’t be happy until this family is back together again.″
The children were removed from the bus Sunday after state troopers got a call from someone on a sleigh ride who had seen a child’s face at a window.
A state police statement called the children ″nearly feral,″ or wild, with no communications skills and no knowledge of eating utensils.
But Monk said Tuesday that the police were incorrect.
He pointed to food canned at home or purchased. The bus also held quantities of flour and at least 50 jars and boxes of baby food and baby formula mix. A refrigerator contained fresh milk, meat, cheese and other food.
″They say I wasn’t feeding my babies,″ Monk said of county and state officials.
″How could anybody do me like this?″ he added. ″I don’t bother nobody, I don’t hurt nobody, and I provide for my family. My wife and my kids come first.″
A juvenile court hearing on custody of the children was postponed Tuesday until Feb. 13 to give attorneys more time to investigate, said Charles Kehoe, director of court services for the Berrien County Probate Court and its juvenile division.
He said the children will remain in foster care at least until then.