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Mom charged with child endangerment after her sons, 5 and 10, were found living in filthy tiny storage unit for a month

Posted by on Jun. 28, 2013 at 11:13 PM
  • 55 Replies

Mom charged with child endangerment after her sons, 5 and 10, were found living in filthy tiny storage unit for a month

  • Sheena Johnson charged after her sons were found living alone in 'horrible conditions' in a cramped storage unit after she was arrested
  • The children, aged five and 10, are in protective custody 
  • Johnson, 27, told a court she had no other options 

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER and DAMIEN GAYLE

The mother whose two young children were found living in a filthy five-by-ten-foot storage unit in New Jersey has been indicted on child endangerment charges.

Sheena Johnson, 27, was charged on Wednesday and is free on $50,000 bail, which was raised by community members. 

Johnson told a court in May she was so desperate, she had no other choice but to move her sons, aged five and 10, into the sealed container with no running water or electricity. 

Sheena Johnson, 27, has been charged with child endangerment after her young sons were found living in squalor in a storage unit

Sheena Johnson, 27, has been charged with child endangerment after her young sons were found living in squalor in a storage unit

Sheena Johnson and her two children, five and 10, were living in a 5-by-10-foot unit at a storage facility in New Jersey

Sheena Johnson and her two children, five and 10, were living in a 5-by-10-foot unit at a storage facility in New Jersey

The horrific discovery was made in April when Johnson was arrested for allegedly slashing her ex-boyfriend's tires.

That's when she confessed to officers that her boys were in the storage unit on their own.

Police found the children in deplorable conditions, sleeping on a bare mattress surrounded by garbage bags filled with clothes, a suitcase, a backpack and other items strewn around the locker.

Johnson explained to the court she was forced to move into the storage unit after losing her job in December and breaking up with her fiance due to domestic abuse. 

 

She went to live with a relative who later pushed her out of the house and locked the door with her children inside during one argument, she told Mercer County Correction Center.

She had to call police to get the door open and she then took the children and their few possessions and went to a hotel.

After this, in mid-February, the family had been moving as transients from charity hotel to borrowed beds at friend’s houses, finding places to sleep for a few days at a time. 

But as money ran low and she was denied more benefits from the county, she said she simply ran out of options.

The Homeless Hotline gave the family a room at the Mount’s Motel in Lawrence for three nights, according to nj.com.

The Extra Space Storage Facility in Ewing, near Trenton, New Jersey, where two boys were found living in a five-foot by ten-foot unit after their mother was arrested

The Extra Space Storage Facility in Ewing, near Trenton, New Jersey, where two boys were found living in a five-foot by ten-foot unit after their mother was arrested

After that, the nights in the storage locker began.

'It really hit me so hard, that I’m down at about the tree-root’s-bottom, and what can I do to make my kids’ life better this way. 

'I didn’t see any clarity — our only option was to stay where our stuff is.

'We all hugged and we all slept on the same mattress when we were there. We made it. I didn’t make it seem as if it was the worst situation ever.' 

She said though it was cold, it wasn't freezing and she heaped blankets over the boys to keep them warm.

She would eat in fast-food restaurants for breakfast and the boys would brush their teeth and wash up there. Sometimes they stayed at a friend's house and were able to have showers or watch TV.

At the same time she was making sure her boys were going to school. 

It was over this that she and her ex-fiance argued after she asked him to give the youngest son a ride to school that morning. When he refused, she got angry and slashed his tires.

Johnson had left the boys in the storage unit and told them she would be back soon. 

It was the last time she saw them.

She also revealed in court that she has few friends in the area and grew up under drug-addicted parents. She was working by aged 14 and pregnant by 16.

The boys, aged five and ten, were reportedly taken for check ups at the Capital Health Regional Medical Center (pictured) before being released in the care of social services

The boys, aged five and ten, were reportedly taken for check ups at the Capital Health Regional Medical Center (pictured) before being released in the care of social services

Johnson’s attorney, public defender John Maloney, said he is trying to secure her a spot in transitional housing where Johnson can be with her kids. 

If that happens, he will petition the court for a bail reduction down from the $50,000.

'Which might be $50 million for all her ability to pay it,' he said.

Johnson is seeing counselors while behind bars and taking parenting classes.

Police said the children were examined at a hospital and found to be unharmed. 

They are now in state custody.

Ewing Police Detective Sergeant John Stemler said one of his officers went to a nearby McDonald's to buy each child a Happy Meal after they were found.

Stemler could not say what the children told police because their statements are part of the investigation. 

He said the storage facility is not being investigated.

A unit that size at the Ewing location costs up to $70 a month, according to its website.

Stemler was unaware of any past incidents where people were found living in the units.

A renter of another unit said he believed the family had been living there 'for months'. 

There is no heat inside the units and only the hallways are wired for electricity, he said.

Flo Auletta, who owns a restaurant across the road from the storage company told the Trentonian that paramedics, code enforcement officials and social workers subsequently arrived on the scene.

Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann told the paper that the discovery had left him 'shocked and appalled' and said he had called the town's two other storage companies to check there was nothing similar occurring.

'I just wished the mother would have sought help instead of going down the route she took,' he added. 

'There’s Homefront, the County’s Board of Social Services, Women’s Space — anything would have been better.'


by on Jun. 28, 2013 at 11:13 PM
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Replies (1-10):
-Celestial-
by Pepperlynn on Jun. 28, 2013 at 11:13 PM

sad

delilahsmom1177
by Bronze Member on Jun. 28, 2013 at 11:18 PM
3 moms liked this

I feel for her. She did make sure they were warm,clean,fed and took them to school. 

I'm tattooed,pagan,pro-choice,pro-legalizing marijuana,pro-gay marriage,anti-war,non-vaxing,tree hugging,animal loving,book reading,animal testing free,depression battling, trying to raise a free spirit and letting her be who she is but still teaching her important life lessons,fighting for equal rights at the same time,don't like it get over it.

PiscesMommy021
by Member on Jun. 28, 2013 at 11:19 PM
That's so sad.
parentalrights1
by on Jun. 28, 2013 at 11:51 PM
1 mom liked this
I'm not even mad at her

Honestly just a few days ago I wondered if someone got really down on their luck if some might resort to renting storage sheds to live in.

It makes me sad for her.
Mommabearbergh
by on Jun. 28, 2013 at 11:56 PM
That is sad and it goes to show not every place is reaching out to help and hitting the bottom can happen to any one so sad.
desertlvn
by Silver Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 12:12 AM
1 mom liked this

I'm so sad for her. It seems to me that she WAS doing the best she could. I wish our country did more to help people back on their feet when they are down and out. I really feel for her.

glitterteaz
by Ruby Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 1:40 AM
3 moms liked this

It appears to me the woman did seek help. And dispite their situation she made sure they were in clothes and had a roof over their head. So sad. I have a feeling things are only going to be worse with what all the conservatives are pulling as of late.

zebbyzebby06
by Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 1:45 AM
1 mom liked this
I was so pissed at her when I read thetitle....but after reading the story ifeel for her :(
jadedcynic
by NerdyJen on Jun. 29, 2013 at 1:54 AM
1 mom liked this

It doesn't look filthy to me, just cluttered. Where else were they going to put their stuff? I hope she gets help. Real help.

desertlvn
by Silver Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 2:07 AM

Quoting jadedcynic:

It doesn't look filthy to me, just cluttered. Where else were they going to put their stuff? I hope she gets help. Real help.


I was thinking the same thing..... That isn't filth, that's a lot of stuff and not much space.
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