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Parents charged after children found in dirty, unheated sailboat

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A man and woman have been charged with child abuse after Natural Resources Police officers found them living with their two boys in squalid conditions aboard a sailboat in the Magothy River.

John Joseph Kelly, 52, and Sherri Leeann Kelly, 43, have each been charged with two counts of felony child abuse, two counts of neglect of a minor and two counts of failure to send a child to school, according to court records.

The Kellys were arrested Feb. 14 by Natural Resources Police aboard a 28-foot sailboat, Suki Too, which was anchored at the mouth of Cypress Creek on the Magothy River near Severna Park.

According to court records, officials found the adults, two children and two dogs living in a 10-foot by 9-foot area with two small makeshift mattresses. There was no running water, heat or electricity in the boat, and family members were urinating into plastic bottles, said Candus Thomson, a Natural Resources Police spokeswoman.

The boys, believed to be 13 and 14 years old, said they had not been to school since last year, Thomson said. One boy had no socks and shoes several sizes too large.

The children and the dogs went with Anne Arundel County's Child Protective Services and eventually were sent to live with a relative in Florida. A 22-year-old man, believed to be the son of at least one of the Kellys, was not charged and is believed to be headed to Florida also, Thomson said.

The Kellys first came to the attention of authorities on Jan. 28, when they called the Coast Guard for help from their sailboat that was iced in near Poplar Island in the Chesapeake Bay, Thomson said. The Coast Guard noted conditions on the boat when they rescued the family and took them to shore to meet a relative.

Then on Feb. 9, Natural Resources Police got a call from someone concerned about a family living aboard a sailboat in Cypress Creek, Thomson said. Police visited to the sailboat, but they declined assistance.

Natural Resources Police returned to the boat on Feb. 12 to warn the family of an impending snowstorm, Thomson said. Police learned that the Kellys were the same family rescued by the Coast Guard weeks earlier, and made a plan to return to the boat two days later with the Coast Guard and Child Protective Services.

The incident remains under investigation.

The Kellys are being held at the Jennifer Road Detention Center in Annapolis. John Kelly is held on $50,000 bail and Sherri Kelly is held on $25,000 bail. Court documents show no attorney listed for the Kellys.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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