A Virginia mother of five was indicted this week for child abuse after two of her young children were allegedly found in what authorities have described as cages. Prosecutors say all of her children were living in abhorrent conditions.
Malista Ness-Hopkins, 39, faces five counts of child abuse stemming from a July visit by Accomack County Social Services workers to her Mears home.
Upon her arrest, she reportedly told police she lived alone with the children as a stay-at-home single parent. The complaint to social services that prompted the investigation came a little more than a year after Tommy Annis, Ness-Hopkins’ boyfriend and father of at least some of her children, died at the age of 33.
Social worker Kate Bonniwell testified that two toddlers, ages 2 and 3, were found trapped in cribs with lids affixed to them.
She went on to recall spending 23 minutes removing the top from just one of the cribs, noting the 2-year-old began hissing and making other animal sounds at her as she attempted to free the children. Inside the cribs, she said she saw evidence the children had bitten and clawed at the walls from inside.
A third, younger child was also in a crib, Bonniwell said, though that enclosure did not have a lid attached.
The three youngest were wearing soiled diapers, she said, and the two oldest were not faring much better. A 5- and 6-year-old were reportedly sleeping on bare mattresses in rooms covered in filth, including broken glass.
“The children didn’t act like normal children,” Bonniwell testified.
An investigation by the Accomack County Sheriff’s Office soon followed. Investigator Meghann Patterson described the scene to the grand jury.
“Outside, there was trash and debris,” she said. “Inside, the smell was overwhelming. The kitchen was littered with trash and cockroaches were all over the floor. There was rotted food in containers.”
Ness-Hopkins had been out of jail on bond prior to her indictment with instructions to receive a mental health evaluation and undergo additional treatment.
[Featured image: Accomack County Sheriff’s Office]