Accomack Co. mother in caged children case sentenced to five years in prison
ACCOMAC, Va. – Following 90 minutes of emotional testimony at the Accomack County Courthouse, Melista Ness-Hopkins was sentenced to five years in prison, with three years probation.
Witnesses who testified before the judgement described the scene at the home on Gladding Road. Children in cribs made to be cages, in dirty diapers with bug bits and lice, odors of feces and urine, with trash scattered through the house, and more.
Witnesses also talked about the health of several children who have since been diagnosed with a series of mental illnesses of their ow, including PTSD, generalized anxiety, reactive attachment disorder and more.
“I think it’s obvious these children have dealt with some great trauma, and are going to be dealing with that for much of their lives,” said prosecutor Elizabeth Wolfe.
Hopkins was the last person to take the stand, repeating that what she did was wrong, that she did not see it at the time, while also talking about her struggles as a single mother with mental illness and depression, and attributing her negligence to the sudden 2016 death of her long-time boyfriend and father of their five sons.
The defense argued that because of her relatively clean record with a lone shoplifting charge, her commitment to see a therapist once a week, and her cooperation with law enforcement and social services, Hopkins should’ve be given a lenient sentence.
The prosecution, led by Elizabeth Wolfe, argued this case is not as much about Hopkins, as it is about the young children who have been traumatized by the experience.
In the end, the Judge explained that while Hopkins did seek financial benefits following the death of her boyfriend, she did not seek the help that was needed, adding that there was harm done to the children.
“I hope that other parents look at this who are in similar situations, and that they reach out for assistance so that they don’t end up in a similar situation,” said Wolfe.
Four of the five boys are now being supervised by Department of Social Services and are in a foster placement, while the department works toward finding a permanent adoptive home. The other boy is living with a grandparent.
While this sentence is for 5 years in prison, Hopkins has 10 additional years hanging over her if she finds herself in trouble with the law again.