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Texas parents get custody of children living in bus

Jan. 22, 2013 at 11 p.m.


CONROE (AP) - Nearly a year after their two children were found living virtually unsupervised in an old school bus in Southeast Texas, the parents regained full custody of their kids Tuesday when a judge dismissed a child welfare case against them.

"It feels really good," said Sherrie Shorten, of Splendora, after she and her husband, Mark, stood before Judge Jerry Winfree at a hearing that lasted only a few minutes.

"If you love your family, you never give up," Mark Shorten said outside the courtroom, standing close to his two children, Jessica, 12, and Chance, 6. "You do what it takes. ... It takes a lot of faith in God, belief in your family and a good attorney. You just work the problem, just don't give up, hunker down and work the problem."

The Shortens last March were serving 18-month federal prison terms for conspiracy to embezzle Hurricane Ike benefits in Louisiana when a postal worker repeatedly spotted the disheveled children in Montgomery County about 35 miles northeast of Houston. Child welfare officials took the pair into foster custody.

There were no front wheels on the bus and the section of the vehicle from the windshield and engine firewall had been removed. Extensive media coverage of the case showed the bus sitting in a trash-filled yard.

Despite its worn appearance, the bus inside had been renovated, furnished, had hot and cold water and a bathroom, and was air-conditioned. The family moved it from Louisiana after their home there was flooded from Hurricane Ike. It was intended as a temporary home until they could build on the lot.

The Shortens had arranged with an aunt to care for the children while they were imprisoned but the woman told authorities her 12-hour workdays and caring for the children had overwhelmed her.

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