Gloucester County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney says she took on one of the most disturbing cases she’s ever prosecuted, when she was elected to office back in November.
In April of 2011, police arrested Brian Gore, 31, and his wife Shannon, 26, after discovering the couple’s six-year-old daughter starved in a make-shift cage inside their trailer.
Prosecutor Holly Smith says the horrifying discovery rattled the small Gloucester community.
“I can’t image there’s a prosecutor in Virginia who’s ever seen a case like this before,” Smith says.
Upon taking office, Smith upgraded the charges against the Gores to felony child abuse and aggravated malicious wounding.
While the Gores have maintained their innocence for two years, both changed their pleas late Tuesday afternoon, just hours after jury selection began in their trial.
Around 4:30, the Gores pleaded guilty to charges of felony child abuse and entered Alford pleas to the malicious wounding charges. In an Alford plea, a defendant neither admits or denies guilt, but acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict them.
Shannon Gore’s attorney, Ron Smith, told CBS 6 on Tuesday that the Gores decided to change their pleas after listening to several potential jurors admit that they had strong opinions in the case.
Ron Smith says his client was also reluctant to have her now 8-year-old daughter testify in court.
The victim was expected to testify via closed-circuit television, despite the pleas of prosecutors, who argued it would be detrimental to the child’s emotional recovery.
Holly Smith says she was shocked by the defendants’ decision, but was grateful the case didn’t go to a full trial.
Smith believes the defendants were also swayed by the overwhelming evidence against them that was summarized the first day of court.
Gore says investigators and physicians were prepared to testify that the young child was starved since the age of three.
When she was finally discovered by police at the age of 6, she was unable to speak or move.
Her parents admitted to investigators that they hid her existence from the outside world and were waiting for her to die.
“The doctors would have testified that she was close to death,” Smith says. “She was emaciated, starving essentially and had contractures where her little legs had been bent up, where her heels had touched her bottom.”
Smith says the little girl, who’s since been adopted by another family, will suffer from the physical and emotional injuries inflicted by her biological parents for a lifetime.
“The child has suffered permanent and significant impairment,” Smith says.
She says the victim’s adoptive parents are grateful that they can continue raising their daughter in peace.
“They are wonderful parents, to say that they are grateful that their identities weren’t revealed and that their child, their little girl, won’t have to testify, is putting it mildly,” Smith says.