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Children Kept on Boat Under 'Atrocious' Conditions; Parents Charged

The parents, an adult son and two minor sons, plus two dogs, were living in the nine-by-ten foot space with human waste in bags and bottles.

A couple has been charged with child abuse and neglect for allegedly keeping their two teenage sons on a boat in poor living conditions with little food. Credit: Screenshot from WJLA
A couple has been charged with child abuse and neglect for allegedly keeping their two teenage sons on a boat in poor living conditions with little food. Credit: Screenshot from WJLA

A couple is being held in Anne Arundel County on neglect charges after authorities said they kept their two underage sons on a boat on the Magothy River with no heat, no way to cook food and “atrocious” conditions.

John and Sherri Kelly, who have no permanent address, were stranded on the thick ice in Chesapeake Bay, but refused help to get to shore, says WTOP. Days later, police returned to check on the family, who were on a boat moored in the Magothy River.

"They were urinating in bottles, there was feces and used toilet paper. You really had to see it to believe it," says Lt. Beth Mauk with the Maryland Natural Resources Police.

An area resident called police when they spotted two children huddled under blankets on deck, reports WJLA TV. Investigators found the 28-foot sailboat with no running water, electricity, or heat. The parents, an adult son and two minor sons, plus two dogs, were living in the nine-by-ten foot space with human waste in bags and bottles.

Mauk says the boys didn't come off the boat for weeks at a time and there is no indication when they attended school.

The Kellys were in Anne Arundel County District Court to face charges of child abuse and neglect. Prosecutors say the two boys are likely in their early teens but there is confusion over the childrens' ages because John Kelly told police they had no jurisdiction over him.

"He told us he was a 'Constitutionalist' and that he would somehow be saved by the Geneva Convention," Mauk told WTOP.

When the couple appeared in court on charges of child abuse and child neglect, prosecutors asked that they be held, saying they had multiple aliases and lived in six states, with no permanent address.

Mauk said the two boys appeared underweight and when they were first interviewed by police they wolfed down snacks from vending machines.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police have cordoned off the site where the boat is being held, while the court decides what will happen to the children, WJLA says.

Noreen Dalisera February 23, 2014 at 10:36 AM
Alexander Brown - thank you for the update on the kids, very sad and very tragic. I hope the parents get help. As for everyone who think the neighbors along the river should have invited them in and offered a warm place, food, etc....you are assuming they could actually get to them, did you not notice the ice, plus the fact that most people around here have their boats winterized this time of year and can't take them out and they were offered assistance to be towed to shore: THEY REFUSED, a caring resident contacted authorities when they were still there. You don't leave minors in that situation; clearly the parents need help.
Ni February 23, 2014 at 07:07 PM
@Jennifer Jamison - Being homeless is not a crime. Neglect however IS a crime. This case is not about a family down on their luck and struggling to get by - it is about a family led by 2 adults who neglected their 2 dogs and their 3 children. (I don't care that the eldest is 23 and technically an adult - if this is the environment in which he was raised in then he is a child who was failed.)
Ni February 23, 2014 at 07:18 PM
@ Dan Crabtree - 2 things 1. You wrote "....no one was or is harmed here..." - How are children living on a boat in the midst of a harsh winter on a river with no heat, running water and relieving themselves in plastic bags not considered harmful? You also wrote: "liberals once agin invading there privacy because they do not approve of ther living conditions" - This has nothing to do with political affiliations. This has to do with parents who were not providing their children and pets with the absolute most basic needs. If the boat was in livable condition and the children were enrolled in some sort of home schooling program, this would not be an issue. 2. Might want to brush up on some basic grammar. Their privacy - not there privacy Their living conditions - not there living conditions Get off their boat - not get off there boat
Scott Wilson February 24, 2014 at 07:08 PM
SOUNDS LIKE THESE PEOPLE HAVE A SHORTED WIRE UPSTAIRS
Toni February 26, 2014 at 04:57 PM
Alexander Brown, I also know this family well. please look me up on facebook. I need to talk to you. I am the oldest son's Aunt from Ohio.

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