MEARS, Va. - An Accomack County mother is facing child abuse and neglect charges after child protective services found her children living in squalid conditions.
"I didn't have any suspicions of what was going on in the house. I mean I saw the kids outside playing, I'd heard her calling them in for meals," says Paul Lurz.
Lurz is just like everyone else, he's shocked and although he lives right next door, part-time, on Gladding Road, he never expected this.
Five children, one mother and an investigation that is sure to raise some eyebrows.
"She needed to be out of there, but she needed help and I didn't see any help coming to her," explains Lurz.
This is the case of Malista Ness-Hopkins, a 38-year-old mother, now charged with child abuse and neglect after authorities allegedly discovered her children were spending time in makeshift cages, living in deplorable conditions.
"Well having all those small kids over there trying to take care of them and look at the house, I mean you wouldn't be able to manage in that house."
And authorities say she didn't. Published reports suggest the house was full of trash and had plates rotting in the sink and bathtub. According to Lurz, those details should not have come as a surprise to Social Services.
"We did talk about housing at one point she said she had asked social services for housing and they said her family was too big they said they had no housing for such a large family."
Lurz, who worked at Crownsville Hospital Center, a former psychiatric hospital, for over 40 years says a mental breakdown isn't so far fetched.
"The woman needed help. I mean you're going to charge her for child abuse when she's obviously had a mental breakdown," says Lurz.
Hopkins is set to appear before a grand jury in early October.
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