Breaking News: Toddlers in cages: Virginia Mom Indicted On 5 Counts Of Child Abuse

October 9, 2017
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The children were all removed from the home July 28, the day social workers visited. Wochit

Breaking News: Toddlers in cages: Virginia Mom Indicted On 5 Counts Of Child Abuse

An Accomack County grand jury has indicted a Virginia woman whose two children social workers found in makeshift cages.

Malista Ness-Hopkins, 39, of Mears, Va., was charged over the summer with child abuse and neglect after social workers and investigators visited her home. There they found two toddlers in cribs with lids screwed onto the top from which they could not escape, according to court records and testimony during a probable cause hearing.

Grand jurors indicted Ness-Hopkins on five counts of child abuse Monday.

All five children in the home were found living in unwholesome and unsafe surroundings covered with filth, dirty diapers, lice and insect bites, according to social workers and an investigator who testified in Accomack County court. The children were removed from the home July 28, the day social workers visited after a complaint was made to the agency.

The home in Mears, Va., where Malista Ness-Hopkins was accused in summer 2017 of keeping two of her five children in makeshift cages.

The 2- and 3-year-old children were in separate cribs with tops affixed with multiple screws, one social worker, Kate Bonniwell of Accomack County Social Services, testified in a preliminary hearing Sept. 8. Another crib containing a 1-year-old did not have a top.

Bonniwell needed 23 minutes with an electric screwdriver to remove one of the lids, she testified. As she was loosening the screws, she said the 2-year-old child inside was hissing at her and making noises she described as animal sounds.

All three wore filthy diapers, she said.

In another bedroom, Bonniwell found the 5- and 6-year-old children on dirty, bare mattresses on the floor. The entire house was littered with debris, broken glass and rotting food.

“Outside, there was trash and debris. Inside, the smell was overwhelming,” said Investigator Meghann Patterson of the Accomack County Sheriff’s Office, who went in after the department obtained a search warrant. “The kitchen was littered with trash and cockroaches were all over the floor. There was rotted food in containers.”

Patterson saw bite and claw marks on the inside of the cribs, she testified.

When Ness-Hopkins was arrested, she told officials when she was arrested that she had been a stay-at-home mother for 17 years and that she lived alone with the children. Boyfriend Tommy Annis, who was the father of some of her children, died in May 2016 at age 33.

After her arrest, Ness-Hopkins was released on bond on the condition that she seek a mental health evaluation and pursue recommended treatment. She was not listed Thursday among Accomack County Jail inmates.

The Orlando Police Department reported that a wheelchair-bound man was arrested for raping a baby in the bathroom of a Chick-fil-A restaurant.

TRAGIC NEWS: Police: Baby Found Being Raped In Chick-fil-A’s Bathroom

The suspect, David Gray was in a wheelchair but police made him walk to the squad car during his arrest Friday. Gray, who apparently works at a home daycare, was reportedly caught by another customer assaulting a female child.

The witness told police he found something was off when he went to use the bathroom at the restaurant. He noticed there was some sort of activity in one of the stalls. According to a police report, the man flushed a toilet in an attempt to alert the person in the stall of his presence.

The person in the stall, later identified as Gray, looked under the partition of the stall and apparently seemed panicked, according to the witness. He became concerned and tried to look over the partition. That’s when he saw Gray was assaulting a baby.

The man said he tried to stop Gray as he was trying to escape the restroom. Gray allegedly pulled out a stun gun and threatened him. Fearing for his own safety, the witness had to allow Gray to pass but immediately allerted the police.

An employee at the restaurant told the police that Gray was a regular customer and was always accompanied by a woman and children. The employee said Gray would sometimes take children into the restroom with him.

Gray was charged with sexual battery on a child and lewd and lascivious battery.

A woman in Seffner was arrested on Monday for aggravated child abuse and neglect after her 19-month-old baby was brought to the hospital with several broken bones.

BREAKING NEWS: Mom Arrested After Toddler Brought To Hospital With Broken Back, Ribs, Arm, Leg, Internal Bleeding

Medical workers determined that the injuries came from physical abuse that has been continued for at least two months, based on different stages of recovery and acute injuries.

On Monday around 11 p.m., Veronica Rivera-Cruz, 21, brought her 19-month-old child to Brandon Regional Hospital for a swelling on the child’s left leg. When hospital staff, along with medical personnel from the Child Protection Team, assessed the child’s injuries, they found the following injuries:

  • Multiple bruises across the forehead which they believed were several days old
  • A black eye with observable hemorrhaging to the white of her eye
  • Bruising on the right cheek, blister inside the mouth
  • A fracture on the right elbow, another on both right forearm bones which appeared to have been recovering for 2-4 weeks
  • An severe displaced spiral fracture on the left femur bone
  • Fractures along the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th ribs which appeared to have been recovering for 2-4 weeks
  • A posterior fracture of the right side of the 9th or 10th rib
  • A fracture to the left tibia which appeared to have been recovering for 6-8 weeks
  • Fractured deformities on the spine humorous bone which appeared to have been recovering for 2-4 weeks
  • A fracture on the victim’s periorbital bone
  • A racture to the left humorous bone which appeared to have been recovering for 6-8 weeks
  • A fracture to the victim’s right ulna bone
  • Internal bleeding

In total, medical staff located wounds at four different stages of recovery on the victim’s body, leading them to suspect that abuse had been occurring consistently for at least two months.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, during a non-custodial interview, Rivera-Cruz admitted that she might be “a litle too rough” while changing the victim’s diaper on Monday night, which she believed may have caused the femur fracture. This occurred at their home in Seffner. In addition, the mother told the officers she believed she might be the one causing the rib fractures of the victim as well.

Rivera Cruz’s roommate witnessed on several occasions that the child appeared to be in pain or have visible injuries and had told the defendant numerous time to take the child for medical services. “However, the defendant failed to provide any medical attention for the victim that any prudent person would consider essential to the child’s well-being,” the affidavit reads.
According to deputies, as a result of the Rivera-Cruz’s neglection, the little girl had to endure daily live with numerous fractures all over her body. The victim’s old fractures in her left arm had already started to recover, which caused the child to have a deformed left arm, medical professionals pointed out.
In addition, doctors located within the victim’s abdomen several bleeding, which might have been caused by lacerated liver or intestine. The health worker emphasized that should the injuries continued to go untreated, it could have resulted in the victim’s death.

Rivera-Cruz was charged with 4-counts of Felony Aggravated Child Abuse as well as Felony Child Neglect with Great Bodily Harm. She is currently is being held in the Hillsborough County Jail without bond.

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