An 8-year-old girl who spent the first six years of her life confined to a cage is now "trying to be a normal child," her lawyer says.
The girl's parents, Brian and Shannon Gore, pleaded guilty to child abuse on Tuesday, WTKR reported. The couple was first arrested in May 2011, when authorities discovered their daughter inside a makeshift cage, comprised of an upside-down crib held in place with a board and boxes stacked on top.
The girl was starving, naked, covered in feces, and so cramped in the crib that she could not fully extend her legs, according to the Daily Press.
She was so hungry that she was eating pieces of her own flaking skin, according to ABC News. At age 6, she weighed under 16 pounds.
The girl was born at home, had no birth certificate, and had apparently never been to a doctor. Her father told authorities that she had Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, but there were no medical records to support this claim.
A 1-month-old boy was also in the Hayes, Va., home, but he was healthy and unharmed.
The body of a third child was found buried near the home. Brian Gore told investigators that the child, who was born in 2007, died in infancy after experiencing breathing trouble. He said he did not call 911 because he was afraid of officials discovering the girl kept in a cage.
Neighbors and people close to the family said they knew about the Gore's 1-month-old son, but were completely unaware of either the girl or the deceased child.
Both Shannon, 26, and Brian, 31, pleaded guilty to felony child abuse and entered an Alford plea on charges of aggravated malicious wounding, the Associated Press reported. An Alford plea means that they did not admit they were guilty, but conceded that there was enough evidence for a conviction.
They were not charged for murder in connection with the child found in their yard because the body was so thoroughly decomposed that medical examiners could not determine a cause of death.
Brian Decker, the girl victim's attorney, told WTKR in an email that she is "progressing as well as you can expect, given the trauma that she has been through." Decker wrote that she is "trying to be a normal child" and has been placed with a family who puts her needs first.
Nevertheless, Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Megan Zwisohn said the child may never be able to have a normal life, the Daily Press reported. Zwisohn believes that as a result of the abuse, it's likely that the girl will never be able to live or work on her own.
Sentencing is scheduled for June 10.