Late Wednesday morning, Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts was alerted by a postal worker that two children were living in an abandoned school bus on Three S Street, just outside Splendora.
Judge Metts contacted Constable Hayden and gave him the information. Constable Hayden personally went to the location, along with a corporal, and found an 11-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy. On the property was an old school bus which had been converted into a makeshift home. A window air conditioner could be seen mounted in a side window. Underground electric lines ran to the bus from the utility pole and what appeared to be a sewer line could be seen at the rear of the bus going underground.
Constable Hayden contacted Texas Department of Child Protective Services and that agency dispatched two case workers to the scene.
Inside the bus was a mattress, bunk bed, a big screen television and a full bathroom, along with a terrible odor.
According to the 11-year-old child, who looks more like 16 and appears to be very intelligent, said her aunt works 12 hours a day for a utility company but comes back in the evening. She told MCPR that she and her brother were both home schooled. She was going to the sixth grade, she said, and he was in kindergarten. She said she enjoyed the home schooling because if she got bored she could swap from math to World History or another subject. She said she was homeschooled by her aunt and her mother. However, her aunt told Constable Hayden the children’s parents have been incarcerated since December 2010.
The family moved to the bus in October 2009. The girl said at times neighbors would help, bring food or even let her babysit. But of all the neighbors, her favorite was the one that had a horse. She loved helping feed and care for that horse when she could, she said.
When asked about living conditions she said, “Oh, it’s not all that bad. I woke up late this morning or I would have my hair brushed by now.” She also said, “We have bunk beds but I sleep on the bottom, not the top.”
According to the United States Attorney’s Office in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Mark Shorten (the children’s father) was sentenced in January of this year to 18 months in Federal Prison after he pleaded guilty in June 2011 to conspiracy.
Mark and Sherrie Shorten (the children’s mother) conspired to embezzle money from victims of Hurricane Ike in 2008 by assisting them in obtaining a Small Business Association (SBA) loan for the repairs to the damage the victims’ house sustained during the hurricane.
Sherrie Shorten, owner of AFS Financial (AFS), helped the victims to obtain a loan, and Mark Shorten, owner of U.S. Expedited, a construction/repair company, agreed to be the contractor for the repairs. Once the loan of $126,300 was approved, the victims signed a limited power of attorney and gave AFS authority to communicate and transact business with the SBA for the purpose of having the loan disbursed. Sherrie Shorten told the family they needed to open a joint bank account with her at Mid-South Bank so they could use the account to receive the SBA money and to pay Mark Shorten for the construction work.
In order to disburse the loan, SBA required receipts and itemized expenses to justify the
money disbursements. Between March of 2009 and July of 2009, Sherrie Shorten faxed
fraudulent receipts and documents to SBA, causing SBA to disburse the entire amount of
the loan into the Mid-South bank account. Sherrie Shorten then proceeded to empty the
account by writing checks to AFS, U.S. Expedited and to herself. Mark Shorten completed
approximately 19 percent of the work and then abandoned the job.
When the victims tried to contact Mark and Sherrie Shorten, they discovered that the defendants had abandoned their residence. They soon discovered that the joint checking account at Mid-South bank had a zero balance.
Sherrie Shorten, 51, of Splendora, TX, formerly of Sulphur, Louisiana appeared before U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi on February 9th of this year and was sentenced to 18 months in prison and three years supervised release for conspiracy charges. The judge also ordered her to pay $126,300.00 in restitution.
The young girl said her aunt comes every night to take care of them and her mother who works for a tax service stays very busy and comes when she can. According to officials she had not been told that her mother was in prison.
The 5-year-old, when asked where his mother was stated, “some mean policemen came and took her away.”
The 11-year-old’s birthday is at the end of the month and she told officials all she wanted for her birthday was to go to Golden Corral for dinner.
As the investigation continues CPS has taken custody of the children.
It did appear the aunt was in fact working 12 hour days to help provide for the children.
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