Melissa and Matthew Hope of Taunton, Massachusetts, are under investigation after an anonymous tip that the couple was sexually assaulting their children, locking them in a dog crate and forcing the young children to “live in squalor” led police to the home.
“A brief overview of why the Department of Children and Families was attempting to remove the three children can be categorized as both neglect and abuse consisting of a variety of specifics which included sexual assault and the keeping of children in cages,” the police report stated.
When police and Department of Children and Families workers arrived at the Hope’s home to do a welfare check, Melissa Hope attacked a police officer for entering the home without a warrant.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Cited a Report of Neglect & Possible Sexual Assault of Children When Attempting to Enter The Apartment
Police accompanied Department of Children and Families workers to Melissa and Matthew Hope’s apartment on Sunday night to remove the kids, citing a report of “neglect and abuse … sexual assault and the keeping of children in cages,” according to a police report. A police statement later added, “DCF had received an anonymous report about three children allegedly living in squalor.”
However, the Hope’s refused to allow police and DCF to enter without a warrant, according to the Boston Herald. Police were eventually given the go-ahead by a patrol supervisor, who noted that child welfare was involved and authorized the officers to force entry without a warrant.
“Melissa and Matthew were informed that based on the totality of the circumstances, combined with the highly exigent claims in regards to the well being of the children, a warrant was not necessary and that they needed to open up the door so that responders could properly evaluate the well being of the three children in the residence,” the report said.
2. Melissa Hope Assaulted a Police Officer Attempting to Check on Her Children, Grabbing Him By The Throat
According to the Boston Herald, Matthew Hope sat down as instructed, but Melissa Hope blocked the way to the rear of the apartment where their children were believed to be. Police said she then grabbed responding officer Nicholas Kerr by the throat and shoved him back from the hallway “with a significant amount of force,” while allegedly stating “you ain’t going (expletive) anywhere.”
Melissa Hope, 34, was arraigned on one count of assault and battery of a police officer — the only charge so far in the case, according to the Boston Herald. Hope pleaded not guilty to the charge.
“Additional charges may be filed over the course of the ongoing police and state investigation,” Taunton police said.
3. Matthew Hope Denies Ever Locking His Children in a Dog Crate or Abusing Them, Stating “We Love All of Our Kids”
Matthew Hope denied keeping any of his children in a cage, as the anonymous tip to police claimed. He said he and Melissa have a medium-sized dog crate that they occasionally lock their cats in when someone is visiting.
“I didn’t do anything they said I did at all,” Matthew Hope told the Boston Herald.
“We’re not bad parents,” he said. “We love all of our kids. And they are trying to make us out like we’re monsters.”
4. Police Report That Due to the “Living Conditions” of the Apartment, the Children Were Taken Into DCF Custody
The police report focused mainly on the forced entry and the alleged fight with Melissa Hope, and did not elaborate on what condition the apartment was in when they arrived.
However, a police press release stated, “Due to the living conditions of the apartment the three children were taken into DCF custody.”
Police referred all further comment to Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn’s office and DCF, according to the Boston Herald. DCF confirmed the children were removed from the home, but declined further comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
5. Melissa Hope’s 13-Year-Old Son Was Also Taken Away By DCF Before, According to Matthew
Matthew Hope said his 13-year-old stepson was removed by DCF from the home last year, but he didn’t elaborate on when or why. Of his younger children’s removal Sunday, he said, “The last thing I said to them was, ‘Daddy loves you. Goodbye.’”
The three children, two daughters, ages 2 and 3, and a 1-month-old son, remain in DCF custody.
“I love my children to death,” Matthew Hope told WPRI. “My house is not a mess, I don’t cage my children. Wherever they are getting this from… it’s completely falsified and untrue.”
This is a developing story. Heavy will continue to update as more information is known.