Brian and Shannon Gore, the Hayes couple charged with felony abuse and neglect and malicious aggravated wounding after their 6-year-old daughter was found starving and caged in squalid conditions inside their home in 2011, were sentenced to 30 years in prison in Gloucester Circuit Court Monday.
Judge R. Bruce Long sentenced each of the girl's parents to 10 years imprisonment, the maximum allowed, on the felony abuse and neglect charge and 20 years for malicious aggravated wounding, which is punishable by up to life. Long said it was the worst case of abuse and neglect he had seen in his 15 years on the bench.
At the start of their scheduled jury trial in March, the couple entered not guilty pleas to both felony charges against them. They withdrew those pleas as the jury selection process was underway. Each then pleaded guilty to felony child abuse and neglect and entered Alford pleas to the charge of aggravated malicious wounding. The Alford plea is not an admission of guilt, but acknowledges the evidence is sufficient for a conviction.
Both parents addressed the court prior to sentencing on Monday. Sobbing and choking back tears, Shannon Gore said when she became pregnant she was 17 and scared Brian would get in trouble if anyone found out. She kept it a secret to everyone but him and gave birth to the child named Allison at home in 2004. She said Brian suggested adoption, but she could not fathom it after holding the newborn.
She gave birth about two years later to a son after again keeping her pregnancy secret. “I couldn’t tell anyone. It was just me and my children. I knew that was not the way to raise children but that’s what I had created,” Shannon said. The young boy died, and Shannon’s attorney Cary Bowen said that was the watershed event that led to his client’s depression and the neglect of her daughter.
“There’s absolutely no excuse whatsoever … there’s absolutely no excuse at all,” Shannon Gore said. “If I had just done the right thing, she would have had a loving and caring family.”
Brian Gore, who sat with head bowed through most of the two-hour proceedings, spoke only briefly and said he owed a great number of apologies to a large number of people, most of all to Allison. “I’m truly sorry that any of this happened,” he said.
In summarizing the evidence against the Gores during the March court appearance, Gloucester Commonwealth’s Attorney Holly Smith said sheriff’s deputies discovered the child when they went to the Gores’ home on Carrie Lane on an unrelated matter.
Smith said while most of the house was tidy, one room was stacked high with boxes and stored items. In that darkened room, police found a child caged in a crib topped with a heavy piece of wood piled with boxes.
The child was naked and in several inches of her own feces on top of a deteriorating mattress, Smith said, and was whimpering, grunting and making animalistic noises. Also in the cage were a couple of sippy cups containing rancid milk.
Shannon Gore initially told investigators the child was born at a hospital in 2008, had Down syndrome and was being seen by a physician. A baby book found in the home indicated the child was actually born in November 2004.
Smith said Mrs. Gore later admitted to an investigator that the child was born healthy at home, and said she was bright and had met developmental milestones. She told investigators the child had been caged since February, then became vague about the length of time and said several months.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Megan Zwisohn said during the same March court proceeding that the young girl’s knees were drawn up to her chest with her heels pressed against her buttocks. She said doctors found the child had the body weight of a six-month old and the head circumference of a 36-month old, and determined her malnourishment probably started before she was three and stopped her brain growth. She also suffered from anemia and rickets.
Zwisohn said the child can now walk, but not perfectly, is a compulsive eater, has limited cognitive abilities and has tantrums. She said one doctor determined “there’s no way that this child will ever be what she could have been” and another said she will not be able to live and work independently as an adult. The child is now living with an adoptive family in another locality.
Smith said Brian Gore also admitted the child was born in good health, and said the couple started leaving her alone after she was born, at first for not long, then for six to seven hours and eventually overnight while they took trips. He told investigators sometimes he would leave her something before he went to work, like a Pop Tart.
“He in fact said they treated her like a pet,” Holly Smith said of Gore’s statements. “He was just tired and it was easier to deal with this way. He said he knew eventually she would just die.”