The 38-year-old who has five children kept two of them in cribs with lids screwed on to the top, making escape impossible.
According to court records and testimony during a probable cause hearing in Accomack County court, Ness-Hopkins and the children were living in unwholesome and unsafe surroundings covered with filth, dirty diapers, lice and insect bites.
The woman who resides in Mears, Virginia, was charged with five counts of abuse and neglect of those children.
The children were all removed from the home July 28, the day social workers visited, Delmarva Now, reported.
A juvenile and domestic relations court judge found probable cause to certify the case against Ness-Hopkins to a grand jury.
At a preliminary hearing Friday, September 8, Accomack County Social Services worker Kate Bonniwell testified she visited the woman’s home July 28 after a complaint was made to her agency.
Bonniwell described a horrific scene: In the bedroom where the three younger children slept, she found the 2- and 3-year children in separate cribs with tops that were affixed with multiple screws. She said the tops appeared to be made from the side rails of other cribs, making them into cages.
She said it took her more than 20 minutes to unscrew one with an electric screwdriver. The 2-year-old child inside hissed at her and made noises she described as “animal sounds.” Once the top was removed, the child did not attempt to get out, Bonniwell said.
A 3-year-old was confined in another crib in the room, where a 1-year-old child was also found.
“The children didn’t act like normal children,” Bonniwell testified.
According to AP, Bonniwell said the children were filthy and suffering from multiple bug bites. In another bedroom, two other children, ages five and six, slept on bare mattresses, she said.
Bonniwell said the toilet in the home’s only bathroom was filled with black water. The sink and the bathtub were filled with trash, including plates of rotting food.
The children were removed from the home on July 28, the day social workers visited.
Bonniwell said Ness-Hopkins told her she was having a hard time and that she confined the children because she could not watch them. The mother said they had gotten out once and were playing with a can of Drano, Bonniwell testified.
Defence attorney Tucker Watson told the judge there was no evidence that the conditions in the home “were directly harmful to the children.”
The judge disagreed and sent the charges to a grand jury.
“This did not happen overnight,” Judge Croxton Gordon said.