After a complaint was received by social services in July, authorities visited the Mears home of 39-year-old Malista Ness-Hopkins and her five children. What they found was horrific, with two- and three-year-old children trapped in their cribs by lids and the other three children living amid filth. Describing the conditions the children were forced to live in as “abhorrent,” prosecutors have indicted Ness-Hopkins on five counts of Child Abuse.

Children living in abhorrent and filthy conditions

Accomack County Social Services visited the home on July 28, after receiving complaints. Kate Bonniwell, a social worker, said in court that they found two toddlers, aged two and three, literally caged into their cribs with lids screwed on the top.

Bonniwell said it took around 23 minutes to remove the lid from one of the cribs, saying the two-year-old child hissed and made other, almost animal sounds as she tried to free the toddler. On accessing both cribs, she found evidence the toddlers had clawed and bitten at the interior walls of the cribs.

When Bonniwell spotted the caged toddlers, Ness-Hopkins reportedly said she confined the children as they had previously run off and had been playing with a container of Drano. The social worker said a younger third child was also found in a crib, but without a lid. All three of these youngest children had soiled diapers and were infested with lice.

According to Bonniwell, the two older children, aged five and six, slept on bare mattresses in filthy rooms, infested with fleas and with broken glass on the floor.

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She went on to say that none of the children acted like “normal children” and that they were all filthy and covered in flea bites. As reported by DelmarvaNow, all five children were removed from the home that day.

A home strewn with debris and trash

Following the visit by social services, the Accomack County Sheriff’s Office then ran an investigation into Ness-Hopkins home. The investigator, Meghann Patterson, said the outside of the home was strewn with debris and trash, while there was an overwhelming smell inside the home. She said the kitchen was also littered with trash and that there were cockroaches all over the floor. She also found rotten food in containers. According to the Miami-Herald, Patterson also found plates of food decomposing in the bathtub.

When Ness-Hopkins was arrested, she described herself as a stay-at-home single parent who lived alone with the five children.

The investigation followed about a year after Ness-Hopkin’s boyfriend, Tommy Annis – who was father to some of the children – had passed away at the age of 33.

The grand jury indicted Ness-Hopkins on Monday on child abuse and neglect charges. She had previously been released on a $10,000 bond, with the judge ordering her to get a mental health evaluation and treatment.