Madison News

 

Chad Chritton's lawyer quits the case

Chad Chritton's lawyer quits the case

The lawyer for a Madison man accused of torturing and starving his teenage daughter has quit the case.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports (http://bit.ly/XEMWQe) Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese allowed William Hayes to withdraw from Chad Chritton's case. Hayes initially represented Chritton privately but became court-appointed in October.

Hayes wrote in a motion to leave the case that it was causing him deep financial harm. Genovese on Tuesday authorized the county to pay Hayes about $16,000.

A jury last month convicted Chritton of child neglect but deadlocked on counts of reckless endangerment, causing mental harm to a child, child abuse and false imprisonment. Prosecutors say they plan to retry him on those counts.

Genovese ordered Chritton to find a new attorney immediately.

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3/15

Jurors are telling a judge they're deadlocked in the case of a Wisconsin man accused of starving and torturing his 68-pound, teenage daughter.

The Madison man faces a half-dozen child abuse counts. Jurors began deliberations Thursday afternoon and worked for nearly nine-and-a-half hours.

They spent six hours discussing the case Friday before sending a note to Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese saying they'd reached a unanimous verdict on at least one count but were deadlocked on others and had been since Thursday.

The jury found Chritton guilty of one felony count of neglecting a child with a consequence of bodily harm, and found him not guilty of one misdemeanor count of neglecting a child.

Genovese brought the jury into the courtroom, told them to keep trying and sent them back to the deliberations room.

The girl testified she was kept locked in the basement and denied food.

The man's attorney says she had access to food but chose not to eat.

Chritton's sentencing will be delayed until Melinda Drabek-Chritton and Josh Drabek are tried.

The verdicts on the charges against Chritton went as so...

Count 1 Felony 1st Degree Reckless Endangering Safety-- No Verdict

Count 2 Felony Child Abuse- Intentionally Causing Harm-- No Verdict

Count 3 Misdemeanor Neglecting a Child-- Not Guilty

Count 4 Felony Causing Mental Harm to a Child-- No Verdict

Count 5 Felony Failure to Act/ Sexual Assault of a Child-- dropped 3/13

Count 6 Felony False Imprisonment--- No Verdict

Count 7 Felony Neglecting a Child (Causing Bodily Harm) - Guilty

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3/15 - 10:47am

A jury has resumed deliberations in the case of a Wisconsin man accused of starving and torturing his teenage daughter.

Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese ordered the jury to resume its work just after 10 this morning.

Jurors began deliberations in the man's three-week trial Thursday afternoon. They worked for nearly nine-and-a-half hours before sending Genovese a note saying they couldn't agree on a verdict and asking if they could go home. The judge dismissed them for the night but told them to return Friday morning and continue their discussions.

Prosecutors have charged the Madison man with a half-dozen child abuse-related counts. The Associated Press isn't naming him to avoid identifying the girl, who has alleged her stepbrother sexually assaulted her.

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4:00am

According to NBC15 reporter Phil Levin, the jury in the Chad Chritton trial will return Friday morning to continue its deliberations.

Just after midnight early Friday morning the jury asked the Dane County judge to go home after about nine hours of deliberation.

They're still deciding the fate of Chad Chritton, the Madison man accused of starving and imprisoning his teenage daughter in the basement of his home.

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3/14 - 11:45 p.m.

After more than 8 hours of deliberations, the jury is still out in the case against Chad Chritton, the father accused of starving and imprisoning his teenage daughter in the basement of their home.

After declining to testify Wednesday, the jury heard more than two hours of closing arguments from both sides Thursday morning. The jury asked for another look at the girl's growth chart a few hours into their talks, and for definitions of terms from Judge Genovese after 10 p.m.

Genovese is allowing the jury to stay as long as they wish. NBC 15 will be at the courthouse until the jury reaches a verdict or decides to break for the evening.

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3/14 - 5:27 p.m.

Closing arguments have ended in the case of a Wisconsin man charged with starving and torturing his 16-year-old daughter.

Dane County District Attorney Matthew Moeser told jurors Thursday the man hid his daughter in his basement so people wouldn't ask questions. Moeser says the girl didn't know what day or month it was. The girl weighed 68 pounds when she ran away from the home in February 2012 and was discovered by a passing motorist.

But defense attorney William Hayes says the girl is a liar, mentally ill and chose not to eat.

Jurors have begun deliberating in the case.

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3/14 - 3:08pm

The defense attorney for a Wisconsin man charged with starving and torturing his 16-year-old daughter says the girl is a liar.

Attorney William Hayes told jurors during closing arguments Thursday in Madison that the girl is mentally ill and not to be believed.

His comments come after Assistant Dane County District Attorney Matthew Moeser told jurors that the man hid his daughter in his basement so people wouldn't ask questions. Moeser says the girl didn't know what day or month it was.

The girl weighed 68 pounds when she ran away from the home in February 2012 and was discovered by a passing motorist.

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3/14 - 1:00pm

Closing arguments are underway in the trial of the father accused of starving and torturing his 16-year-old daughter.

Prosecutors say Chad Chritton clearly chose to hurt her.

Assistant Dane County District Attorney Matthew Moeser told jurors that the man hid his daughter away from the world in his basement so people wouldn't ask questions. Moeser says the girl didn't know what day or month it was.

According to NBC 15 Reporter Barclay Pollack, prosecution has just wrapped up their closing arguments and the defense will pick up after a lunch break. Get the latest updates here by following Barclay on Twitter.

The trial against her 41-year-old father is scheduled to wrap up in Dane County Circuit Court on Thursday. The man faces six felony child abuse charges.

The girl testified that Chritton kept her locked in the basement, and that she endured years of physical abuse and was denied food.

She weighed less than 70 pounds when she ran away 13 months ago.

The defense has said the girl had adequate food and clothing available, but chose not to dress appropriately or eat well.

Wednesday, Chritton told a judge he would not testify, saying a learning disability has left him unable to comprehend enough to testify in his defense.

Also Wednesday, the charge of failure to protect a child from sexual assault against Chritton was dropped.

The jury should have the case by this afternoon.

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3/8

Chad Chritton, the man accused of starving and torturing his teenage daugther, was on trial today. The 16 year old daughter he's accused of abusing was questioned all day.

The victim, who we are not identifying, described the conditions she lived in. She claimed she was locked in the basement where alarms would go off if she tried to get out. She said she slept on a moldy mattress that she sometimes went to the bathroom on when she said her toilet was taken away. She said she was also forced to eat and drink her own feces and urine.

She described the kind of sexual acts her stepbrother would allegedly force her to do and the kind of abuse she sustained from her father. She said he choked her and called her derogatory names.

She recalls being hungry quite often. When she was found she weighed on 68 pounds. She said she was denied food and being able to shower.

The prosecuting attorney asked, "What did your dad do to you?" The victim responded, "He would choke me, slam me into a wall as he chokes me and even the floor."

She also talked about imaginary friends and said she was often afraid.

Chritton claims the girl threatened to kill him and that he had problems dealing with her psychiatric problems.

Continue to follow this story here, thanks to our news partners at NBC 15.

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3/8 NOON

The teenage victim took the stand this morning in the trial of Chad Chritton.

Chritton is accused of abusing and starving his daughter.

NBC15's Rachelle Baillon is at the trial today (follow her on Twitter), here's a summary of some of the things the girl has testified about.

-She says she was sometimes locked in the basement, without a bathroom.

-She says she sometimes had to do chores naked.

-She says her dad sometimes choked her.

-She says she felt a lot safer in the hospital. Says she felt unsafe at home, fearing she would be hurt.

Follow this story here, thanks to our news partners at NBC 15.

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2/26 6:10PM

FROM OUR NEWS PARTNERS AT NBC 15 - Watch a video report here

In February of last year a severely malnourished 15-year-old girl was found wandering around out in the cold. "It's cold 28, 29 degrees and he sees a young girl walking, catches...his attention," said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, describing the passerby who found the girl. "She has no coat, as he drives past he realizes she has no shoes and she seems to be dressed in thin pajamas. He pulls over and attempts to assess the situation and in doing so he realizes she's crying and she is upset."

She reportedly weighed 68 pounds at the time and in the months since her story has captivated--and horrified--as members of her own family stand accused of starving and torturing her.

Today (Tuesday 2/26), the trial of Chad Chritton, her father, began.

"You're going to hear about a child that was isolated, starved, abused, maltreated and then had the courage on February 6 of 2012 to run away," said Ozanne.

The defense opened by saying that the victim was a girl with a history of mental and behavioral issues and that Chritton is a learning-disabled man who didn't understand how--but was trying--to help his daughter, even though he feared for his and other family members' safety. "Chad was exasperated," said the defense attorney. "....were telling him 'you're making progress, you're making progress' and Chad says 'baloney. Maybe she would be better off ........in a residential care facility'. Chad came up with that; learning-disabled Chad."

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2/26 6:00am

Testimony will begin today at the Dane County Courthouse for a 41-year-old Madison man, charged with serial child torture.

Chad Chritton faces numerous felonies after his 15-year-old daughter was discovered wandering the neighborhood last February, weighing just 68 pounds.

She was barefoot and only wearing a nightgown.

Sixteen jurors were selected yesterday; 10 women and six men.

Chritton's wife Melinda, who is the girl's stepmother, is also charged in the case and will stand trial in April.

The teen's stepbrother is accused of sexually assaulting her. He will stand trial in June.

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2/25

A jury has been selected for Chad Chritton.

He's the Madison man accused of taking part in torturing his teenage daughter, since 2006.

The then 15-year-old was able to escape their southeast side home last year, barefoot and in her pajamas.

She told authorities that she was starved and forced to eat her own feces.

Her step-mother Melinda is also facing six felony counts while her step-brother has been accused of sexually assaulting her.

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6:00am

A trial is set to begin this week for a Madison man accused of starving and torturing his teenage daughter.

The man and his wife are accused of locking the girl in the basement and denying her food until she wasted away to 68 pounds. They each face six felonies, including child abuse and neglect. The girl's stepbrother has been accused of sexually assaulting her.

The Associated Press isn't naming any of the defendants to protect the girl's identity.

The father's trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Monday.

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8/2/2012

The Madison teen who wasted away to 68 pounds after her parents allegedly locked her in the basement and denied her food will almost certainly have to take the stand if her father and stepmother go to trial.

The father's lawyer filed motions this week asking that the girl be compelled to testify in person. Attorney William Hayes wrote that having the girl testify live rather than by videotape allows his client his constitutional right to confront his accuser.

Dane County district attorney Ismael Ozanne declined Wednesday to go into specifics about his plans for that specific case. However, he says whenever he gets ready for a trial he makes sure all potential witnesses are prepared to take the stand.

The girl's father (Chad Chritton), stepmother (Melinda Drabek-Chritton) and stepbrother all face child-abuse charges.

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6/4

A Madison man accused of starving and torturing his 15-year-old daughter has posted bail and been released from jail.

Sheriff's Sgt. Nick Skrepenski says the man was released Monday about 5:30 p.m. after his $9,000 bail was paid.

The man and his wife are accused of locking the girl in the basement and denying her food until she wasted away to 68 pounds, the weight of an average 9-year-old.

The girl's stepbrother is also accused of sexually assaulting her. The Associated Press isn't naming any of the defendants to protect the girl's identity.

The father and stepmother each face six felonies, including child abuse and neglect.

The father's defense attorney, William J. Hayes, hung up on a reporter when reached for comment Monday afternoon.

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5/20

A woman accused along with her husband of starving and torturing the man's 15-year-old daughter has been released from jail.

A Dane County judge lowered bail for the couple to $9,000 each on Friday. Bail had been set at $22,500 for the 41-year-old man and at $30,000 for his 42-year-old wife.

Dane County sheriff's Lt. Brian Hayes said the woman posted the $9,000 cash Friday. The husband was still in custody Saturday night.

Defense attorneys argued the couple had no money and that their bail should be reduced to signature bonds.

The couple has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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UPDATED: Friday, May 18, 2012 --- 10:33p.m.

Information from Dane County Sheriff's Office:

At 9:20p.m. Friday, Melinda Drabek-Chritton post bail. Chad Chritton is still in jail. A judge agreed to lower bail for both couples to $9,000 Saturday. Her bail had previously been set at $30,000.

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UPDATED: Friday, May 18, 2012 --- 8:00p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A judge has lowered bail for a Madison truck driver and his wife who are accused of starving and torturing the man's 15-year-old daughter.

Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese on Friday lowered bail for the couple to $9,000 each.

Bail had been set at $22,500 for the 41-year-old man and at $30,000 for his 42-year-old wife.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports defense attorneys argued that the couple had no money and that their bail should be reduced to signature bonds.

A prosecutor told the judge that a website had been set up to raise money for the couple's legal defense. But the man's attorney says the website has not raised any money.

The couple has pleaded not guilty to all charges. They remain in jail Friday evening.

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UPDATED Friday, May 18, 2012 --- 7:00 p.m.

A Madison couple accused of starving their daughter in a locked basement will head to trial in August.

Chad Chritton and Melinda Drabek-Chritton moved to dismiss their charges in Dane County Court Friday, including allegations of intentional sexual assault. Judge Julie Genovese denied the motion, ruling they will head to trial on the strength of testimony at their preliminary hearings.

At the proceeding, the couple also asked to have their bail lowered because they could not afford a combined $52,500 previously set. Dane County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Moeser questioned the request because the couple opened a website asking for donations to their legal defense fund. Chad Chritton's attorney argued the site has not helped.

"I am not aware and I believe I would be aware of any money coming in to Chritton's website, and none, zero, has come in," said Defense Lawyer William Hayes.

The website also caused controversy concerning the 15-year-old alleged victim's medical records. Hayes motioned to seal her records from the public.

"Well that begs the question why Mr. Chritton has medical record information regarding [the alleged victim] on his web site," said Moeser.

The site does not provide any actual records, but does list a detailed medical narrative tracing the girl's sexual assaults, hospital visits, and psychological evaluations ranging back about 6 years.

Hayes tells NBC 15 he had nothing to do with putting the information on his client's website. The site does direct potential donors to contact Hayes' law office.

The court will consider separating the trials of the parents, and Melinda's son Joshua Drabek, who is accused of sexually assaulting the girl, but for now their joint trial is scheduled to begin Friday, August 31.

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5/15

A Madison truck driver and his wife are due back in court this week on allegations they starved and tortured the man's 15-year-old daughter.

Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese is scheduled on Friday to hear multiple motions from attorneys representing the couple, including requests to dismiss the cases, move the man's trial out of Dane County and require the girl to undergo a psychological evaluation.

The couple faces a host of charges, including reckless endangerment, child abuse and child neglect. Prosecutors also have charged the woman's son with sexually assaulting the girl. All three of them have pleaded not guilty.

The girl told police in February her parents forced her to live in the basement and scrounge for food.

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5/11

A website has been set up in the case of a severely malnourished teen found wandering in Madison a couple months ago.

But, the site doesn't appeal on the 15-year-old girls behalf; it's for her father and stepmother who are charged with numerous felonies for allegedly abusing the girl for years.

They're asking for donations to their defense fund and paint themselves as loving, doting parents trying to raise a troubled child. They add that they're vehemently opposed to child abuse, but recognize that teenagers lie and some have mental health problems.

The teen weighed just 70 pounds when she was found in February.

The parents are back in court May 18th.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne wouldn't comment on the open case.

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4/17

FROM OUR NEWS PARTNERS AT NBC 15:

A man and woman accused of child abuse and torture say they aren't guilty despite 8 new felony charges being filed against them.

The couple is accused of torturing and starving the man's teenage daughter and forcing her to live in their basement.

The 15-year-old girl fled the couple's home in February and weighed only 68 pounds when she was found by a passing motorist.

It wasn't until they appeared in court that Chad and Melinda Drabek-Chritton found out they were both facing new felony counts.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said, "We looked through the information we had and felt we should file some new charges."

In addition to charges of reckless endangerment, child abuse and child neglect they both face 4 new counts of causing a child mental harm, failing to protect a child, false imprisonment and child neglect resulting in bodily harm.

Ozanne says, "I wouldn't say it's any more serious than it was before. It's a very serious case."

Both the alleged victims father and stepmother entered pleas of not guilty.

In fact, both clients also made motions to dismiss the charges.

In court, Drabek-Chritton's lawyer, Thomas McClure said, "The first one is a challenge to the jurisdiction of the court as a result of what took place at the preliminary hearing."

Exactly what the issues with the preliminary hearing are, aren't clear. Attorneys appear to questioning evidence brought forward at the hearing.

In court today Judge Julie Genovese said, "It sounds as if you're united in interest on this idea of dismissing for issues related to how the preliminary hearing proceeded."

McClure also told a judge he wants to take a look at what he says is evidence his client is suffering from kidney disease. He says her health problems are not being treated properly at the jail.

Both Chad Chritton and Melinda Drabek-Chritton will be back in Dane County Court next month on those motions they filed to dismiss the charges.

The alleged victim's step brother also appeared in court today.

He's been charged with sexually assaulting her.

He stood mute and the judge entered a not guilty plea for him.

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4/16

A husband and wife accused of torturing and starving the man's teenage daughter are expected to enter pleas this week.

Prosecutors say the Madison couple denied the girl food and forced her to live in the basement. They've also accused the girl's stepbrother of sexually assaulting her.

The husband and wife are scheduled to enter pleas this afternoon to charges of reckless endangerment, child abuse and child neglect. The stepbrother is scheduled to enter pleas to a child abuse charge and two sexual assault counts at the same proceeding.

Get more on this story here, via our news partners at NBC 15.

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3/21

Madison's city council gave special recognitions last night to the guy who rescued a severely malnourished girl, who was wandering around Madison barefoot and in her pajamas a month ago.

Mike Vega picked her up and called police.

He recalls a conversation he had with the 15-year-old girl, "I've told a lot of people this, I made a promise to her, in the car, telling her that she is going to be okay; not knowing if she would be."

The girl told authorities she wasn't fed and was made to live in the basement.

Her father and step-mother will stand trial on a number of charges.

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3/16

UPDATE: The father and step-mother have been bound over for trial.

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3/16

A preliminary hearing will resume for the Madison couple accused of starving and torturing the man's 15-year-old daughter.

The hearing is scheduled for Friday afternoon. It began Tuesday but was postponed because the prosecution's lead witness had a sick child.

The witness is the doctor who examined the girl last month after the teen ran away from home wearing thin pajamas. The doctor diagnosed the 70-pound girl as a victim of "serial child torture with prolonged exposure to definite starvation.''

Defense attorney William Hayes represents the father. He has hinted that he questions the girl's mental health. He said he reviewed her story "and the word 'rubbish' came to mind.''

A preliminary hearing gives the judge an opportunity to decide whether there's enough evidence to warrant a trial.

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3/14

The 15-year old girl in the center of the case, tells her story. This afternoon (Tuesday 3/13) a judge ordered that the video of the young girl's testimony be released.

In the tapes we hear the horrific details of the case. Including the graphic account of her step brother allegedly sexually assaulting her.

See the tape here via our news partners at NBC 15.

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3/13 - 5:40pm

REPORTER: Chris Woodard

For the first time tonight we are hearing from and seeing a 15-year-old Madison girl who was allegedly starved and tortured by her father and stepmother.

The video comes from a taped interview released by a judge tonight.

During the investigation the alleged victim was interviewed by employees at Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center.

The video shows the small 15-year-old girl clutching her stuffed bunny, dabbing her eyes and detailing alleged abuse and starvation by her parents.

The two-hour video shows her speaking softly to a detective. She says her stepmother physically assaulted her and withheld food, and that both her parents kept her confined in their Madison basement.

At one point she breaks into tears and says, "I've just had it. I just don't even want to go back there."

The girl's father and step mother are accused of starving her and locking her in a basement for years.

When found, the 15-year-old girl weighed only 70 pounds which is what doctors say the average 9 year old weighs.

The tape was released today after both parents appeared in court for a preliminary hearing where it became pretty clear the defense in this case will be focusing on the girl's mental health.

In court, the father's defense attorney William Hayes said, "She has serious mental health problems that have existed her entire life."

The words of defense Hayes are a powerful glimpse of the trial that may lie ahead for the father and stepmother.

Hayes said, "Quite frankly, my short time on this case and the things I have reviewed, the word rubbish comes to mind. It's just not true."

According to a criminal complaint the girl told investigators she was regularly denied food and forced to survive by eating scraps from the floor or a garbage can.

They are claims Hayes questions, he says, because of the girl's medical history.

Hayes said, "There are diagnoses that can be made that a teenager that could be telling a story because of this mental illness that would aggrandize herself to sympathy, and so on. "

The arguments were made during a preliminary hearing that was eventually postponed because a key prosecution witness could not attend.

After court Hayes wouldn't explain what he meant by calling the allegations rubbish.

He was also upset the taped interview the girl conducted will be allowed into evidence but the girl herself will not appear at the trial.

Hayes said, "We would have cross examined her if she would have appeared in court. You can not cross examine a movie."

The prosecution didn't respond to the claims

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said, "I'm not going to make any comment on the case. You were all present and saw what happened in the court."

Today the defense argued that both the father and stepmother took the alleged victim to several health care providers over the years for treatment of that mental disease.

Hayes said if the child was being abused one of those providers would have reported it to authorities.

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3/13 - 11:06 a.m.

A judge has postponed a preliminary hearing for a Wisconsin couple accused of torturing and starving the man's teenage daughter because the prosecution's main witness was unable to attend.

Prosecutors intended to call Barbara Knox, a doctor who examined the girl after she ran away from home. But Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said Tuesday that Knox couldn't be in court because her child was sick.

Judge Amy Smith postponed the hearing until Friday.

Defense attorney William Hayes had hinted that he would address the girl's mental health during the hearing. He said he reviewed her allegations "and the word `rubbish' came to mind." He declined to elaborate to reporters after it was postponed.

The girl weighed 70 pounds when found, which is about what the average 9-year-old weighs.

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3/13 - 10:56am

Chad Chritton and Melinda Drabek-Chritton had a preliminary hearing today in Dane Co. court.

Prosecutors wanted to show a video of the 15-year-old made by Safe Harbor. The video apparently shows the 15-year-old telling police her parents confined her in the basement and withheld food until she got down to 70 pounds. The defense argued against it.

The judge said he will make a ruling by this afternoon. The hearing will continue on Friday.

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3/12 - 4:55 p.m.

The state is investigating how Dane County handled complaints involving a Madison couple now charged with torturing and starving a 15-year-old girl.

The Feb. 23, 2012 letter from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families is addressed to Dane County Human Services Department Lynn Green.

It notes the Division of Safety and Performance planned to inspect the case record and interview staff involved, per protocol after egregious incidents.

Green has previously said her staff followed protocols in the case.

There have been 10 reports of suspected neglect, sexual or physical abuse since 2006 involving the girl. Three are pending. Six others were unsubstantiated or didn't meet the legal definition of abuse or neglect. A 1997 report of physical abuse was substantiated but the department hasn't released what happened.

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3/3

A judge has refused to reduce bail for a Madison husband and wife accused of torturing and starving the man's teenage daughter.

Prosecutors say the couple denied the girl food and forced her to live in the basement. They've also accused her stepbrother of sexually assaulting her. The Associated Press isn't naming any of the defendants to avoid identifying the girl.

A court commissioner last month set cash bond for the man at $22,500 and $30,000 for the woman. Their attorneys tried to persuade Dane County Circuit Judge Amy Smith on Friday to reduce the bond, arguing they don't have the money and won't flee.

But Smith said they face serious charges, they appear to own a house and they've hired lawyers. She scheduled a preliminary hearing for March 13.

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3/2

The attorneys for a Madison couple accused of torturing and starving the man's 15-year-old daughter have asked a judge to lower their clients' bail.

The father also asked to be tried in absentia. His request filed this week doesn't explain why, and his attorney didn't immediately return a message Thursday.

Cash bond has been set at $22,500 for the father and $30,000 for the stepmother. In court filings, their attorneys say neither defendant is a flight risk and neither has a criminal record.

The girl's father and stepmother are accused of denying the girl sufficient food and forcing her to live in the basement. Her stepbrother is accused of sexually assaulting her. The Associated Press isn't naming them to avoid identifying the girl.

The parents are due in court Friday.

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3/1

The lawyer for a Madison woman accused of starving her 15-year-old stepdaughter asks that people avoid an unfair rush to judgment.

Attorney Thomas J. McClure says the woman and her husband are good people who have been unfairly characterized by an incomplete investigation. He tells The Associated Press that when the truth comes out, the public will find a ``very different situation'' than the way events have been presented thus far.

The girl's father and stepmother are accused of denying her sufficient food and forcing her to live in the basement. Her stepbrother is accused of sexually assaulting her. The AP isn't naming the defendants to avoid identifying the girl.

The father and stepmother are being held on $22,500 and $30,000 cash bond respectively. They're due back in court Friday.

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2/24

Today the maternal cousin, a victim advocate, of a 15 year-old girl recently rescued from an environment of child abuse and neglect in Madison, Wisconsin spoke publicly to thank supporters for an outpouring of well-wishes, and to inform the public that a trust fund has been created in the child’s name: “Building the future for SLC Trust*.”

The trust will be used for enriching and enhancing the quality of SLC’s life, especially supplemental and extra health care not otherwise available as well as, educational expenses, and to bring enjoyment and new positive experiences to her life. Members of the public can donate by visiting any Marine Credit Union branch or mailing a contribution made out to “Building the Future for SLC Trust” to Marine Credit Union, PO Box 510, Waupun, WI 53963.

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A Dane County judge has postponed preliminary hearings for the father and stepmother of severely malnourished Madison girl and canceled one for the girl's stepbrother.

Investigators say the family forced the girl to live in their basement and denied her food. The father and stepmother have been charged with child abuse, reckless endangerment and child neglect. The 18-year-old stepbrother has been charged with sexually assaulting the girl.

The Associated Press isn't naming them to avoid identifying the girl. The AP does not usually name victims of sexual assault.

Preliminary hearings were set for Thursday for all three. But Judge Amy Smith postponed the proceedings for the father and stepmother because neither has hired an attorney yet.

The stepbrother waived his right to his hearing. His attorney declined to comment.

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2/20

A Madison teen who was starved, beaten and sexually abused for years had run away on several occasions, and said she used to sneak outside and dig in the garbage for food.

Some might question why, if she had access to the outdoors, she never knocked on a neighbor's door or otherwise sought help.

One national expert cautions against second-guessing the actions of someone who has been terrorized. Ernie Allen is with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. He says children develop coping mechanisms that help them survive, even if the mechanisms seem odd to an outside.

Other abused and abducted kids have reacted similarly. For example, a Missouri boy was abducted and brutalized, yet even when his kidnapper gave him some freedoms he never went to police.

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2/17

A Statement From Police Chief Noble Wray

All of us in the greater Madison community are learning of horrific allegations stemming from a child abuse case that the men and women of the MPD continue to investigate, with assistance from other agencies. The accused are presumed innocent in the eyes of our legal system, yet accusations leveled against them have created great anguish, particularly in the neighborhood where the victim lived.

This is a time where many, including officers of this department, are going to need support, and it will take time for our community to heal. One of those directly impacted by this case is Mike Vega. His life became intertwined with that of the victim by happenstance. I would like to offer a public thank you to Mr. Vega. He was the passerby who found the 15-year old outside in her pajamas looking for someone to help her. Mr. Vega was in the right place, at the right time, and did the right things.

I want to assure everyone that the victim is being well cared for, and is getting the medical help she needs. As details of her life have been revealed, many of you have asked what you can do to help. Efforts are underway to establish a fund for the victim. There are some legal hurdles that need to be jumped for this to happen, and more information will be forthcoming as a fund is solidified.

This might also be an appropriate time for more of us to reconnect with other young people, those who- because of their own life situations - may be more vulnerable than others and in need of support.

Detectives and officers are far from finished with the investigation into this case, and additional reports will be turned over to the Dane County District Attorney's office for review as they are completed.

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UPDATED Friday, February 17, 2012 --- 10:40 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The father, stepmother and stepbrother of a Wisconsin teen who was allegedly starved and tortured all remain in jail on cash bail ranging from $22,500 to $30,000.

The defendants made separate court appearances Thursday in Dane County. A sheriff's spokeswoman says none made bail as of Friday morning and remain in jail.

Randy Craft of the state public defender's office says the stepbrother has qualified for a public defender. Craft says the office is still verifying whether the father and stepmother also qualify for an attorney at public expense.

Preliminary hearings for all three are set for Thursday. The charges against the parents include child abuse and neglect, and the stepbrother is charged with sexual assaulting a child.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Thursday, February 16, 2012 --- 3:00 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Prosecutors have charged the 18-year-old stepbrother of a severely malnourished Wisconsin girl with repeatedly sexually assaulting her beginning around her 10th birthday.

Dane County prosecutors on Thursday also filed felony child abuse and other charges against the 15-year-old girl's father and stepmother. The girl told police the couple had kept her confined to the basement since 2006 and that they beat her, starved her and forced her to eat feces.

A motorist spotted the girl Feb. 6 walking barefoot in pajamas near her home and called police.

The girl weighed just 70 pounds and the doctor who examined her determined she was severely malnourished.

Prosecutors say the girl's stepbrother first sexually assaulted her around December 2006, then again from February 2009 to February 2010.

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UPDATED Thursday, February 16, 2012 --- 2:31 p.m.

The three suspects in this child abuse case now face formal charges.

Chad Chritton and Melinda Drabek-Chritton are charged with 1st degree reckless endangerment, intentional child abuse-bodily harm and child neglect.

Joshua Drabek is charged with 1st degree sexual assault of a child under age 13 without great bodily harm, sexual assault of a child under 16 years of age and intentional child abuse-bodily harm.

As we've reported, a neighbor says he called social services about this child and situation, but doesn't know if it was followed up on.

So NBC15 contacted The State of Wisconsin Dept. of Children & Families. As you will read, they've been following this case for some time. They released the following statement:

Wisconsin has county administered child protective services. Its purpose is to protect the health, safety and welfare of children. Reports of suspected abuse or neglect are received and investigated by county child welfare agency.

Below is the information that the Department has available for release at this time. An official assessment of these allegations is still ongoing and the Department does not have any further comment at this time.

Child Protective Services Reports to the Dane County Dept. of Human Services
Source: State of Wisconsin Dept. of Children & Families
2/16/12

February 6, 2012, a CPS Report was screened in alleging neglect and physical abuse of a child. This report was followed by two more reports with similar allegations. The agency investigation is pending.

March 2011, a CPS Report alleging neglect to a child was screened out.

September 2009 a CPS Report alleging neglect to a child was screened out. The DCDHS referred the family to a community service provider, who made contact with the family.

June 2009, a CPS Report alleging neglect to a child was screened out. The DCDHS referred the family to a community service provider.

March 2007, a CPS Report was screened in alleging sexual abuse, neglect and threatened harm to two children. Each maltreatment allegation was unsubstantiated and the children were determined safe.

January 2007 and June 2006, two CPS Reports alleging sexual abuse to a child that occurred in another state were screened in. Maltreatment was unsubstantiated in each case and the child was determined safe.

May 1997, a CPS Report was screened in alleging physical abuse to a child. Maltreatment was substantiated.

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40-year-old Chad Chritton and his 42-year-old wife, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, are expected in court this afternoon.

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5:00am

Neighbors of a 15-year-old girl found recently to be severely malnourished says they alerted social services about potential abuse but don't know if anything was ever done.

Mark Stuntebeck says he's lived next door to the family since they both moved in to houses built by Habitat for Humanity about six years ago. He says he'd see her taking out the trash, scavenging through it and then hiding to eat what she found.

He says he saw it several times and even called social services, but he doesn't know what happened.

Melissa Clark lives across the street. She says her mother called child protective services about a year ago because they heard the stepmother berating her.

A message left at the state Department of Health Services wasn't immediately returned Wednesday.

Our news partners at 620 WTMJ spoke to the man who found the 15-year-old girl. Get his story here.

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2/15

STATEMENT FROM MAYOR SOGLIN:

Our thoughts are with the young woman who has been brutally victimized in this horrible case. She is now with caring professionals who will do their utmost to treat her with the kindness and compassion she has not experienced in her young life to date.

There are many questions that remain on this case, but I hope that it truly serves to remind us that we all must be vigilant about abuse every day.

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Charges are pending against a Madison man and wife arrested for allegedly torturing and starving the man's 15-year-old daughter.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports (http://bit.ly/wNGgRk ) the teen was only 70 pounds and told police she was forced to live in the basement since about 2006.

According to a police affidavit, she said she was forced to drink her urine and eat her feces. She ate what she could find on the floor, in the laundry or in the garbage. She also said her father and stepmother physically abused her.

A doctor told police the malnutrition the girl suffered ``poses a significant risk of death.''

Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain says a passerby notified police after seeing the girl wearing only pajamas and walking barefoot near her home Feb. 6.

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The father and step-mother were in court yesterday. You can watch their appearance here thanks to our news partners at NBC 15.

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2/14

Incident Type Child Abuse
Incident Date 02/06/2012 - 3:15 PM
Address Madison's Southeast Side
Arrested Male, age 40, Madison
Suspect was arrested for Child Abuse.

Female, age 42, Madison
Suspect was arrested for Child Abuse.

Male, age 18, Madison
Suspect was arrested on a Probation & Parole hold.
Victim Female, age 15, Madison
Details The Madison Police Department is investigating a significant child abuse and neglect case involving a 15-year old girl. The amount of information being made public is limited as this case is continuing to unfold at the time of this writing.

The initial contacts with law enforcement began on the afternoon of Monday, February 6th when a passerby found the girl walking outside, without shoes or socks, clad only in pajamas. The victim was a couple of blocks from her house, and in obvious need of help. The concerned citizen notified McFarland Police who in turn summoned McFarland EMS to evaluate the malnourished teen. She was transported to a Madison hospital.

It was determined this was a Madison case. The MPD was contacted and a patrol officer responded to the hospital to gather information.

From the onset, it was clear the 70-pound girl was dramatically underweight. The child’s father provided medical explanations for her physical condition.

On Wednesday, February 8th, a hospital social worker provided information to the MPD indicating there was likely much more to the case, and the investigation escalated.

A doctor, who specializes in child abuse, examined the teen on Friday, February 10th, and diagnosed her condition as, “serial child torture with prolonged exposure to definite starvation.”

A forensic interview was conducted at Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center on Friday, February 10th. The Safe Harbor interview provided probable cause to make 3 arrests. Late on Friday the child’s 40-year old father and 42-year old stepmother were arrested on tentative charges of Child Neglect. In addition, the 18-year old step brother was arrested on a Probation and Parole hold.

In summary: Detectives learned she lived with her father, a stepmother, an adult step-brother, and two younger stepchildren. While the rest of the family resided upstairs, she was forced to spend most of her time in the basement, without a bathroom, and being given very little to eat. There was an alarm that would sound if she went upstairs.


A search warrant was executed on the family’s Southeast Side home Monday afternoon, February 13th. Potential evidence was seized. Interviews and evidence gathering continue.

The MPD has had prior calls regarding members of the family. One case, in 2007, involved the victim. An unnamed party alleged the girl may have been molested by a family member. The girl did not corroborate the allegation during the investigation by the MPD. At the time, she appeared healthy, and her family was unwilling to cooperate with a MPD detective. The detective told other involved agencies that if the child was to make future disclosures pertaining to the allegation that the detective should be contacted so the investigation could proceed. No further information was brought to the MPD.

The child is currently not enrolled in a public or private school.

The MPD is working closely with many agencies on this case.

Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center is a member of the National Children's Alliance. Its’ mission is to provide comprehensive, coordinated, compassionate services to victims of child abuse. It is a safe and friendly place where law enforcement officers can take children to talk about what has happened to them.


To learn more about Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center you can go to http://safeharborhelpskids.org/aboutus.html . If you would like to know more about Child Advocacy Centers on a national scale, visit website
www.nationalchildrensalliance.org

 

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