BECKLEY, WV (WVNS)– A father and grandmother of a homeschooled child who was abused with a cattle prod will spend one to five years in prison.

Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Dimlich heard statements from Bobby Joe Richmond, the child’s father, and Carol Richmond, the child’s grandmother. Both pleaded guilty to child neglect with a risk of serious bodily injury.

Both defendants spoke during the sentencing and told Dimlich they were not responsible for the abuse, but Dimlich agreed with Raleigh Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian Parsons and issued the full possible sentence of one to five years.

The two must also register on a child abuse registry, the judge ruled.

Bobby Joe will be supervised for ten years after his release, and Carol will be supervised for five.

Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office deputies found the 8-year-old girl soiled, locked in a laundry room after a concerned relative visited their house in February and called 911 for help. Her head had been shaved, and she told police she was hungry.

Bobby Joe said he had been overworked and overwhelmed with issues involving his children, once whom he had placed in Child Protective Services custody for his daughter’s protection. He said he had not paid attention to his daughter’s living conditions.

“You saw the same pictures I saw at that last hearing,” said Dimlich. “Any father could’ve looked at those pictures and saw there was something wrong, horribly wrong.”

“I was always working,” countered Bobby Richmond. “I wasn’t there.”

“That’s a nice excuse– ‘never there,'” said the judge, adding the victim expressed terror at seeing her father again.

The child’s grandmother, Carol, said she only knew that her daughter-in-law locked the girl up at night. She said she had lived in the house only three days when police were called.

She handed her cane and purse to relatives before bailiffs took her from the courtroom. Parsons says the trio locked the eight-year-old girl up, starved her, kept her out of school and used a cattle prod to punish her, before their February arrest.

Rebecca Richmond will be sentenced for an identical charge in a later hearing, said Parsons. The victim told authorities she had witnessed her father physically abusing Rebecca.

Parsons said prosecutors plan to pay special attention to cases involving abused children whose parents do not send them to a school.

“We have a high at-risk population with children who obviously can’t make disclosures if they’re not in school, and they’re not in situations where they can make contact with other safe, responsible adults,” said Parsons.

The number of home-schooled children in West Virginia has grown during Covid.

Parsons and Fayette County Circuit Court Judge Paul Blake have both reported a rise in child abuse cases involving homeschooled students.