The Bristow parents who put drywall across a bedroom door to barricade their three young girls inside entered guilty pleas Thursday to three counts of child abuse, accepting responsibility while attributing the episode to out-of-control prescription drug abuse.
John Robey, 34, and Christina Moore, 26, have been held in the Prince William County jail since March 26, the night it was discovered that their girls — then ages 4, 3 and 18 months — had been left alone in an upstairs bedroom with pieces of drywall screwed tight to the doorjamb. The eldest girl escaped and got a neighbor to help her sisters.
Shortly after his arrest, Robey told police that the drywall “was just like a child gate but without holes in it,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kristina Robinson said in court. She said the parents indicated that the children had been misbehaving and that they needed a break.
It is unclear how long the girls had been shut in the room, but Robinson said it was probably at least several hours, adding that the children were hungry and filthy and the room was covered in feces.
Defense attorneys for Robey and Moore said their clients had been in the throes of drug abuse, using legally prescribed painkillers. When the neighbor came to help, court papers said, Robey and Moore were passed out in their bedroom.
Prosecutors recommended that Robey and Moore receive suspended jail time if they complete a drug treatment program while they are incarcerated. Robey is expected to finish next month, and Moore is expected to complete the program in January.
None of the girls were injured, and they are living with relatives. Authorities credit the 4-year-old with saving herself and her sisters from potential harm.
As darkness fell that night, the younger sisters became scared. The oldest girl used mattresses and a pile of clothes and toys to scale the wall, Robinson said in court. She got a few cupcakes from the kitchen, tossing them to her sisters before escaping the house.
The girl arrived at her neighbor’s door barefoot and carrying a flashlight.
“She asked for help and said her sisters needed help and that her parents were sleeping,” Robinson said. The Washington Post is not identifying the girl because she is a minor.
The neighbor went into Robey and Moore’s home, freed the children and cleaned them in a bathroom. Then she took them to her house for dinner before calling police.
David Daugherty, the attorney for Moore, said she is working to get free of the grip of drug abuse. “She is now 180 degrees from where she was at the time,” Daugherty said. “She wants to be a better mother. It’s going to be a long road.”
Robey’s attorney, Mark Crossland, said his client has also been climbing out of a drug-laden lifestyle. He said Robey put up the barricade because the bedroom door had been removed, and the drywall, at the time, appeared to be the safest thing to do.
“He’s sorry for what happened, and the drug dorm [treatment program] has made him a better person,” Crossland said.
Authorities said it is possible that Robey and Moore could regain custody of their children, which both parents want. They will be on probation for years and under drug monitoring.
“Clearly, this was the result of extensive drug abuse,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert. “Hopefully, these children will be safe in the future.”
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