HOUSTON – A mother was behind bars on Wednesday after authorities say she left her six children home alone while she traveled to Africa to marry a man she met on the Internet.
Shanell Monique Mosley, 33, was arrested at a Houston airport when she returned, charged with child endangerment and child abandonment for leaving the children in poor conditions. Two other children who are neighbors were also at the home.
Mosley made her first court appearance Wednesday. She has a $275,000 bail.
Child welfare officials contacted Mosley to notify her that her children were in CPS custody and she faced charges, but she hung up, said John Jordan, a Harris County prosecutor.
"It appears that she continued with her honeymoon while her kids had been in CPS custody," Jordan said.
Mosley claims her sister was supposed to watch the kids during her absence.
"I didn't just leave my kids, if that's what you think," Mosley said. "This trip was pre-planned for a year."
Child welfare officials were reviewing the case while the children remained in foster homes, said Estella Olguin, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services.
Lt. John Legg, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Office, said they found the home in poor condition.
"We don't know what would have happened had we not responded," Legg said.
Authorities found the children alone in the house in early January and investigated Mosley's whereabouts, learning she had traveled to Nigeria.
When she left for Nigeria on Dec. 31, Mosley told her 15-year-old daughter she would return in a month, child welfare officials said.
"I left money in my closet," Mosley said. "I gave one of my children three ATM cards."
Assistant Harris County District Attorney John Jordan said investigators have learned Mosley's six children were starving and her older children could not recall their own birth dates.
Mosley's children are 1, 7, 8, 9, 15 and 16, Jordan said. The other two children found in the home were 3- and 4-year-olds the family cared for on behalf of a single father who worked, Jordan said.
Mosley left a Lone Star food card, but officials said it had no monetary balance.
The 9-year-old son told authorities he and the baby ate a still-frozen pizza for breakfast the morning they were discovered home alone. There were no diapers, baby food or formula for the infant, no sheets on beds and fruit was rotting in a basket, Jordan said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.