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No Charges for Family Living on Boat Under 'Atrocious' Conditions

Neglect charges have been dropped against the parents, who said they only planned to live temporarily on a boat last winter with their sons and two dogs.

Neglect charges have been dropped against the parents, who said they only planned to live temporarily on a boat last winter with their sons, two dogs and no toilet facilities. Credit: Screenshot from WJLA
Neglect charges have been dropped against the parents, who said they only planned to live temporarily on a boat last winter with their sons, two dogs and no toilet facilities. Credit: Screenshot from WJLA
John and Sherri Kelly kept their two underage sons on a boat on the Magothy River under “atrocious” conditions last winter, according to police.

Prosecutors on Wednesday dropped all charges against the Kellys because the parents did not intentionally neglect their teenage sons, according to The Capital Gazette.

John Kelly claimed the couple never intended the 28-foot sailboat to be their home. The family had previously stayed at a home in Severna Park where John Kelly was doing work on the house for the owner. He was asked to leave for unknown reasons, and the boat belonging to Sherri Kelly’s grown son became the family’s only housing option, the parents told the court.

John Kelly, 52, and Sherri Kelly, 44, were found aboard the Suki Too, moored in the Magothy River, in February along with their sons and two dogs, according to a previous Patch story. A local resident had called in police when two children were spotted aboard, huddled under blankets.

“They were urinating in bottles, there was feces and used toilet paper. You really had to see it to believe it,” said Lt. Beth Mauk with the Maryland Natural Resources Police, according to Patch.

Although investigators initially reported that there was no heat, no running water, no electricity and no way to cook food, follow-up investigations showed the conditions onboard the Suki Too did not meet criminal standards for child abuse or neglect. The Kellys provided heat, food, water, shelter, toilet facilities and supervision, prosecutor's said.

Mauk also said the two underaged boys appeared underweight and did not get off the boat for weeks at a time; there was no indication the youths attended school.

The Kellys were charged by the Department of Natural Resources police with child abuse and neglect. Prosecutors said the two adults had multiple aliases, lived in six states and had no permanent address.

The teenage boys were sent to Florida to be looked after by an aunt.

John Kelly, claiming to be a “constitutionalist,” said that the government had no right to govern them, according to The Capital Gazette. At a recent court hearing, John Kelly declined to sign his name and Sherri Kelly signed with a mark instead of her name.

John and Sherri both were held for about six weeks at the Jennifer Road Detention Center and were released at the end of March.

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