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.

ROBERT SCHROEDER February 20, 2014 at 09:14 AM
Amen, thank you God!
Darla Tagrin February 20, 2014 at 09:54 AM
Perhaps they were living on the boat because they couldn't afford rent. Still no excuse for neglecting their children.
Noreen Dalisera February 20, 2014 at 10:01 AM
Thank God that the resident who reported them didn't chose to ignore the situation like so many people would. It seems that the father may have some serious dillussional issues and has lost touch with reality by his comments and what about the mother and adult sibling, are they just as dillussional? Shame on them - I hope the boys and dogs get a new home (all together) and not ever live in those conditions again.
Charles Bombico February 20, 2014 at 10:16 AM
Children are subjected to terrible conditions every day by the poor, un-informed decisions made by the family court located in Lackawanna County Pennsylvania. They fail to question people, review reports from medical and mental professionals and base there decisions on nothing more than what side of the bed they wake up on.
Linda Moltz Deavers February 20, 2014 at 10:37 AM
Maybe the minors didn't want to leave their parents. Ask the children and I bet they want everyone to stay together. If they stuck together during these bad times, they won't want their parents prosecuted. Love thy neighbor . . . Give them food, shelter, medical, etc. and they'll be as good as new . . .
Tom Hollman February 20, 2014 at 10:57 AM
Maybe the parents are goofy and these new parasites on society will be justified for a change instead of something in exchange for a vote or two or three
Chuck Burton February 20, 2014 at 11:01 AM
If dad is such a "constitutionalist" he would re4ject any help from government. But if he and his family dispose of their waste anywhere but in the open, isn't that dependence on government? And in the open would not be very nice to neighbors. Did the kids at least learn to read, write and do basic math? If not, they will end up as wards of the state, and on welfare. Not exactly free of government, Mr. independent. And haven't YOU, dad, assumed the role of governor in their lives? Aren't YOU their president, king, dictator? LMAO!!
ROBERT SCHROEDER February 20, 2014 at 12:05 PM
Yes God, thank you!
Pam Corona February 20, 2014 at 12:21 PM
God is not to blame for creating this situation. We are. God doesn't let people starve, we do. As for the "adult" child. Maybe he's been abused? Maybe they are afraid to leave because they've been told horror stories or they were threatened? Get a grip people. It's obvious this family has issues. I feel sorry for those kids and animals. That's horrible.
Maureen CBriggsc February 20, 2014 at 12:24 PM
They need help ! NOT criminal charges against them !
Judith February 20, 2014 at 07:44 PM
Well, Charles Schwartz, you don't seem to know what atheists believe if you can say that they blame God for everything! Since they don't believe that the deity exists, why would they blame him/her?
Jennifer Jamison February 20, 2014 at 08:53 PM
Since when is being homeless a CRIME? Leave them alone.
Dan Crabtree February 21, 2014 at 01:25 PM
liberals once agin invading there privacy because they do not approve of ther living conditions....no one was or is harmed here...that said get off there boat...and out of there lives..and keep your liberal nose to yourself,,
ernesto February 21, 2014 at 03:52 PM
Jen and Dan your just as crazy as the Mom and Dad. Im sure the kids love freezing and going hungry. Wake up u duds
Linda Moltz Deavers February 21, 2014 at 04:19 PM
Does anyone know where they are now?
Noreen Dalisera February 21, 2014 at 04:22 PM
For all of you who are mad or upset that the family was pulled off their boat; What part of child and animal abuse and neglect do you not get here? If the adults want to live on a boat full of human and animal feces with no heat or food, have at it they are adults. There are 2 minors and dogs who don't get a say in this because they are not adults and need to be protected from the insanity of their parents. No one who can not make a decision for themselves should be forced to live like that: ask yourselves if that is what you would want for your family? I would hope not. They could have at least let the Coast Guard or Police tow them to a port to get their boat repaired and have access to the use of facilities at a Marina while the repairs were being made.
Linda Moltz Deavers February 21, 2014 at 04:52 PM
Let ME clarify my point. I'm saying maybe these children (assuming they are teenagers) love their parents enough and stayed on purpose. They may want their parents to get help and then they can all stay together. That's all. Why would anyone want to immediately take people's children away. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
Noreen Anderson February 21, 2014 at 08:06 PM
Linda, assuming you have children would you subject them to such horrifying conditions? if so, I pity you and feel sad for your children.
Alexander Brown February 22, 2014 at 03:53 AM
Okay guys stop fighting. I know what happened. I know I have no proof, but this family lived in Ohio, so this is how I know. The kids where forced to stay inside in the winter, because the snow was "radioactive". The kids have never been enrolled in a school. These kids had no chance of escape. It was sad. They have been in Maryland, since last year. They moved very suspiciously with the mother warning of zombie attacks and such. It's weird. But I am glad the kids(13 and 14) and the oldest son(23), whom I was very close to are all okay. The oldest son was pretectong the youngest sons the best he can. This is so unfortunate.
Alexander Brown February 22, 2014 at 03:55 AM
Linda, I think the kids are with respnsible relatives down in Florida.
Linda Cox Bireley February 22, 2014 at 08:00 AM
These are the same type of boat people who live in Florida in the coves, rivers and bays. They refuse to accept any responsibility, refuse to follow laws and create large amounts of pollution to local waters. They could have blended in with the rest of them in Florida. Choosing the Magothy River in Maryland was a huge mistake. Too cold and too many rich residents with expensive homes on that river who will not put up with a view of trashy people from their homes.
Dave Van Rosenberg February 22, 2014 at 09:58 AM
At least they didn't pollute the water by throwing the sewerage in the water
Louis Devault February 22, 2014 at 02:24 PM
Time and tide condemn on one hand and condone on another they do not differ from conditions I have videos of while kids are being held in foster care.
Mongo February 22, 2014 at 06:13 PM
When I read these posts, hypocrites came to mind. If you all cared about this families well being so much, why didn't you offer them some help? The answer, "I didn't know." That's a lie! You passed by the marina at least a couple times wondering if those people where still on that boat instead of intervening and offering them a hot meal and possibly a warm place to stay. Instead, you report them to the police. What a wonderful hood you must live in. I thank God I don't live in your town!
Linda Moltz Deavers February 22, 2014 at 07:00 PM
Thank you Mongo. Finally someone else with compassion . . .
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
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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