Children left in blistering Mojave Desert town without shoes or water as punishment

Twentynine Palms sits in the Mojave Desert.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Three children between 5 and 7 years old were left in the scorching Mojave Desert without shoes or water Wednesday as punishment by their parents, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said.

The 7-year-old girl and her little brothers, ages 5 and 6, were found in Twentynine Palms on Wednesday. They were spotted by a passerby near the 74000 block of Samarkand Drive, a residential road at the edge of a patch of vacant, dirt- and brush-covered land that’s the size of three city blocks.

Authorities said the children were found about 11:20 a.m. when the heat would have reached about 100 degrees, said Todd Lericos, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.


They were left outside by their mother, Mary Bell, 34, and her boyfriend, Gary Cassle, 29, authorities said. The parents and children live in a car that was down the road from where the youths were left, sheriff’s department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said.

The kids had been outside for about 45 minutes before they were found, Bachman said. They didn’t require medical attention and were placed in the care of county family services, she said.

The young and old are particularly vulnerable to effects of long-term exposure to heat, Lericos said. The children were found before temperatures topped out at 104 degrees in the Morongo Basin, he said.

Bell and Cassle are being held in lieu of $100,000 bail for felony child abuse and are scheduled to appear in court Friday.

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