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A Virginia mother and father who pleaded guilty to felony child neglect after their three young kids were found locked in a cage will not serve any prison time.
Scott Suggs, 28, and Brandy Kangas, 36, of Spotsylvania County, Virginia, pleaded guilty to the three counts on March 30 after their children — ages 1, 3, and 4 — were discovered behind a gate with an opening where they received food, reported NBC affiliate WWBT.
As part of their plea agreement, a judge who had given them six-year prison sentences suspended the prison time.
"Although these kids were in a nasty condition, a disgusting condition, they were filthy, they were covered in a rash which turned out to have been treatable — they were well-nourished and healthy when social services took them into custody," Spotsylvania Commonwealth's Attorney William Neely, who recommended the prison sentences be suspended, told NBC News on Saturday.
According to a court summary, "there was a noticeable, pungent odor where the three children were in a family room behind a homemade gate. ... The gate had a lock on it and the key was hanging up on a wall.”
Deputies said the 17-month-old boy and 3- and 4-year-old girls shared a mattress inside the cage, and were kept behind the gate day and night. Neely said the carpet had feces and urine stains on it. But, he said, the case did not meet the requirements for Virginia Supreme Court's child neglect law, and therefore did not merit prison time.
While Suggs and Kangas weren't jailed, they have been put on indefinite supervised probation, ordered to pay $2,500 each and have been prohibited from having future contact with their children, who have been placed in a foster home. They also are undergoing drug treatment, Neely said.
The siblings "lacked social skills because they had virtually no contact with the public. They lived in that room," Spotsylvania County Capt. Jeff Pearce told WWBT.
But Neely said the children weren't harmed physically, "and that's what the child abuse statute requires, is physical harm."
Court records contradicted that, according to WWBT, showing that the 1-year-old had bruises on his forehead from banging his head on the door of the gate.
"Nobody knows that that's why. Kids get bruised on the heads all the time," Neely said. "The problem is the case law ... Unless we can show that the neglect was intentionally set about to cause physical harm or kill the children or was so gross and reckless, the courts repeatedly hold that just being a bad parent and keeping a nasty, dirty house is not enough to convict somebody of felony child neglect. It's got to be worse than that."
He added that the "cage" was "nothing more than a gate."
"People put kids in rooms with baby gates all the time. This was just more disgusting because it was a bigger gate and it was nailed to the wall and they were apparently passing food across the gate," he told NBC News. "I don't make the law, I just enforce it. "
Neely said the kids are "all three doing very well" in foster care.
For more on this story, including information on how to make donations to the children, visit NBC12.com.