A homeless mother and her boyfriend in California have been sentenced to 240 days in prison for sending the woman's three young children into the desert "as punishment" without shoes or water.
Mary Bell, 34, and her boyfriend Gary Cassle, 29, pled guilty to felony child abuse, after they were arrested for sending Bell's 7-year-old daughter and two sons aged 5 and 6 into the Mojave Desert heat by themselves without any water, according to the Daily Mail.
The incident took place near Twentynine Palms, about 130 miles east of Los Angeles.
Temperatures in the Mojave can exceed 110 degrees in summer months, according to Blue Planet Biomes. When the children were found, the temperature was reported to be in the low 90s. They had been walking for around 45 minutes and did not need medical attention after they were rescued.
After a local saw the children and called 911, Bell and Cassle were found nearby, within sight of the children. San Bernardino County Sheriff's spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman said, "but it was apparent they weren't keeping a visual on them." It is also unclear why the couple was punishing the children.
Ron Greiger, a neighbor, told the Desert Sun that he can't remember anything like this ever happening in the neighborhood. "I know the neighborhood pretty well, so I was pretty surprised [to see their photos]," said Greiger. "I can't imagine they're from here."
"It's probably too hot to be letting your kids wander, especially without shoes," he added.
Cassle is reported to have a number of previous convictions including public intoxication, driving without a valid license, and disturbing the peace.
The couple was scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on July 21, but the hearing was vacated after Bell and Cassle both pled guilty and were sentenced.
In addition to the 240 days in jail, the pair will have four years of probation. A protective order will be filed against them for the children and as part of their probation the two will not be allowed to contact each other.