FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – A Pennsylvania mother who for weeks lived with her two daughters under an ant-infested playground in Broward County was sentenced to four years in prison Friday, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Tammy Kongkham, 37, had earlier pleaded no contest to two counts of child neglect, one count of desertion- all felonies- and two misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
“I’m a desperate mother, I love my children so very much and I miss my children so very much,” said Kongkham, 37, fighting back sobs as she read from a handwritten letter, a Vietnamese language interpreter by her side. “Your Honor, I am asking you to have mercy on my poor, poor soul.”
Prosecutors say Kongkham lived in a hole she and her daughters dug under a playground near State Road A1A and Sebastian Street after fleeing Philadelphia in October 2008. Kongkham fled with the girls when child welfare officials placed her daughters, then 8 and 10, in foster care.
Kongkham said she was looking for work while the three were living in the hole. Police discovered their living conditions in early December after Kongkham’s oldest daughter was seen at the Galleria Mall begging for food. The officer noted that the girl, who said her mother had abandoned her, was covered in bug bites. Two weeks later, Kongkham and her other daughter were found living in a cardboard box outside a Tamarac strip mall.
“What this woman made these kids live through was a nightmare,” said Prosecutor Adriana Alcalde said. “She didn’t keep these children from harm’s way. She put them in harm’s way.”
After getting credit for 804 days served in prison, Kongkham will spend about two years behind bars.
After her release, she will return to Pennsylvania where she is facing charges for kidnapping her daughters.
The girls now live in Pennsylvania with their father.