GULFPORT -- Patrick Aaron Braddock and Brittany Kay Braddock of Gulfport have the option of pleading guilty to misdemeanor child neglect after being accused of locking their two toddlers in dog cages.
The couple, along with Brittany Braddock's mother, Pamela Diane Davis, originally were charged with two counts each of felony child neglect. After hearing evidence in the case, a Harrison County grand jury in February recommended those charges be reduced. Grand jury proceedings are secret, so it is unclear what led to the recommendation.
Attorney Michael Crosby of Gulfport said his client, Patrick Braddock, intends to go to trial rather than accept a guilty plea. Crosby said the children were playing in the cages.
"These people have been slandered," he said. "They lost their jobs. They can't even walk through Wal-mart without being recognized. People say, 'You're that woman who put your kids in a dog cage. You ought to go to hell for that.' Just vicious things."
Evidence presented at a preliminary hearing showed the doors of the cages were secured with hooks, said County Prosecutor Herman Cox. Testimony indicated Brittany Braddock put the boys into the cages so she could cook.
The 2-year-old was wearing only socks when detectives arrived, though the 1-year-old was clothed, Cox said. Blankets and pillows were in the cages, which Cox said would be presented as evidence at trial.
"If they want a trial," Cox said, "that's fine, we'll try them."
Gulfport police went to the home in January 2015 to serve a search warrant on Patrick Braddock because he failed to appear in court on a charge he burglarized a house. A Gulfport police detective spotted the caged children in another room, Cox said. He said the mother got the 2-year-old out of one cage, but the detective snapped a photo with the younger boy still in a cage.
Crosby said his client is awaiting a court date.
The Braddocks are scheduled to appear at a plea hearing July 7 in Justice Court. If they enter not-guilty pleas, a trial date will be set. Meanwhile, the toddlers are with a relative.
Before deciding on their plea, Cox said, the Braddocks intended to check on custody matters.
Jim Davis, attorney for Brittany Braddock, said, "We're trying to weigh all our alternatives and we're going to do what's in the best interest of my client and the two children involved."
The maximum penalty on each charge of misdemeanor child neglect is up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.