A mother in Virginia pleaded guilty this week to keeping two of her five children in makeshift cages.
Malista Ness-Hopkins on Thursday pleaded guilty to five counts of child neglect.
The news comes after the 39-year-old Accomack County woman was arrested July 2017 after social workers found two of her children living in makeshift cages. The cages were cribs with what social workers said appeared to be the side rails of other cribs screwed on the top, USA Today reported.
Two of Ness-Hopkins’ other children were found in a separate room sleeping on a bare mattress.
All five children — whose ages range from one to six years old — lived in a home full of trash, rotting food and fleas, authorities said at the time.
Kate Bonniwell, an Acomack County Social Services worker, said during a testimony that it took more than 20 minute to unscrew one of the lids, which required an electric screwdriver to do so. She added that the two-year-old inside the caged “hissed” when social workers removed the top.
“The children didn’t act like normal children,” Bonniwell said, according to the Associated Press.
Bonniwell also said that a toilet in the home was filled with black water, while a sink and bathtub were filled with trash and rotting food.
Ness-Hopkins’ attorney argued that she used the cages to protect the children, not punish them, as she was “suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after her boyfriend died,” the Associated Press reported.
Ness-Hopkins, who was released on bond a few days after she was arrested, will remain on bond until her sentencing in December, USA Today reported.
As for the children, four have been placed in foster care while the fifth is living with his grandmother.
The Associated Press contributed to this report