UPDATE: Dad gets 5 years in prison for starving girl

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UPDATED Wednesday, January 29, 2014 --- 3:24 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A judge has sentenced a Wisconsin father convicted of keeping his teenage daughter in the basement and starving her down to 68 pounds to 5 years in prison.

The girl told investigators in February 2012 she had spent most of the previous five years confined to the basement and was denied food. She said her stepmother beat her and her stepbrother sexually assaulted her.

A jury convicted the 42-year-old father of child abuse and other charges in November. A separate jury found him guilty of felony child neglect in March.

The Associated Press generally does not name potential victims of sexual assault and isn't naming anyone in the family to avoid identifying the girl.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, January 29, 2014 --- 9:03 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A father convicted of locking his teenage daughter in the basement of their Wisconsin home and starving her faces sentencing.

The 42-year-old Madison father was convicted of child abuse and other charges in November. He was also found guilty of felony child neglect in March. At one point the teen weighed just 68 pounds.

He faces a maximum sentence of 28 years in prison when he's sentenced Wednesday afternoon in Dane County.

The girl's stepmother was sentenced in July to five years in prison for reckless endangerment and causing mental harm to a child. The girl's stepbrother is set to stand trial in February to face accusations that he sexually abused the teen.

The Associated Press isn't naming anyone in the family to avoid identifying the girl.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, January 28, 2014 --- 5:20 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A judge is set to sentence a Madison father accused of locking his teenage daughter in the basement and starving her down to 68 pounds.

A jury convicted the man of child abuse and other charges in November. Another jury found the 42-year-old man guilty of felony child neglect in March. He faces up to $55,000 in fines and 28 years in prison when he's sentenced Wednesday afternoon.

The girl's stepmother was sentenced in July to five years in prison for reckless endangerment and causing mental harm to a child. Her stepbrother is set to stand trial in February on allegations he sexually abused her.

The Associated Press isn't naming anyone in the family to avoid identifying the girl.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, November 22, 2013 --- 11:12 p.m.

The jury has reached a verdict in the retrial of Chad Chritton. He has been found guilty on three of the four counts he was facing.

Chritton was found guilty on one count on 2nd degree recklessly endangering safety, guilty on one count intentional child abuse, and guilty on causing mental harm to a child. He was found not guilty on one count false imprisonment.

The judge revoked his bail and Chritton was immediately taken into custody afterwards.

His sentencing will be announced at a later date.

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UPDATED Thursday, November 21, 2013 --- 11:05 p.m.

The jury has wrapped deliberations for the night in the Chad Chritton retrial. They will resume deliberating tomorrow at 9 a.m.

UPDATED Thursday, November 21, 2013 --- 5:28 p.m.

The jury is now deliberating in the retrial of Chad Chritton.

Chritton is accused of locking his teenage daughter in the basement and starving her.

A jury convicted Chritton of felony child neglect in March, acquitted him of a misdemeanor neglect charge and deadlocked on four other counts, including false imprisonment and child abuse. Prosecutors decided to retry him on those charges.

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UPDATED Wednesday, November 20, 2013 --- 4:35 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin man accused of locking his teenage daughter in the basement and starving her says the girl suffered from behavioral problems.

The 42-year-old man testified Wednesday that he once woke up to find his daughter standing over his bed with a steak knife.

The Madison man says he tried to get her psychological help but no one could give him any satisfactory answers.

A jury convicted the man of felony child neglect in March, acquitted him of a misdemeanor neglect charge and deadlocked on four other counts, including false imprisonment and child abuse. Prosecutors decided to retry him on those charges. The new trial began Nov. 12.

The man didn't testify in his first trial.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, November 20, 2013 --- 2:02 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Madison man accused of locking his teenage daughter in the basement and starving her down to 68 pounds is taking the stand in his second trial.

A jury convicted the 42-year-old man of felony child neglect in March but acquitted him of a misdemeanor neglect charge and deadlocked on four other counts, including false imprisonment and child abuse. Prosecutors decided to retry him on those charges. The new trial began Nov. 12.

The man didn't testify in his first trial. But he took the stand Wednesday, starting his testimony by outlining his days in high school and in the U.S. Army. He says he has suffered from what he called learning and comprehension challenges all his life.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 --- 6:30 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin

Chad Chritton is back in court for a re-trial expected to last two weeks after the state says he abused, imprisoned, and neglected his daughter.

In March, a jury deadlocked on four felony counts. His daughter was found after she ran away from her Madison home in February, 2012. As a 15-year-old she weighed just 68 lbs., 18 lbs. lighter than when she was 9 years old.

"[She] was feeding herself by sneaking out through the basement windows to eat out of garbage cans, and sneaking back into the family kitchen through an unlocked door to get food to keep herself alive," said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne in his opening argument Tuesday.

Chritton's attorney does not dispute the girls condition but says it was not Chad's fault. Jess Nicholson says a doctor recommended Chritton move the girl to their unfinished basement, and that she hid knives and could not be controlled.

"Every camera and alarm was put in place with the recommendation of somebody that Chad was relying on to help him parent," she said. "He tried as hard as he could and it wasn't perfect, but it wasn't a crime. It's not a crime to fail."

The trial resumes Wednesday.

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UPDATED Monday, November 11, 2013 --- 9:06 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Jury selection is set to begin in the re-trial of a Madison man accused of locking his teenage daughter in the basement and starving her down to 68 pounds.

The man was convicted in March of felony child neglect. But the jury but deadlocked on other charges, including intentional child abuse and false imprisonment. A re-trial on those counts begins Monday.

The man's wife is the girl's stepmother. She was sentenced to five years in prison in the same case after pleading no contest to first-degree recklessly endangering safety and causing mental harm to a child.

The Associated Press isn't naming the father or stepmother to avoid identifying the girl, who has accused her stepbrother of sexually assaulting her.

Authorities say the girl is healthy now and regaining weight.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, April 16, 2013 ---- 3:50 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The lawyer for a Madison man accused of torturing and starving his teenage daughter has quit the case.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports 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.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, March 15, 2013 --- 8:50 pm

Jurors Entered the courtroom to deliver their decision on the charges against Chad Chritton just moments ago...

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)

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UPDATED Friday, March 15, 2013 --- 5:37 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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.

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.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, March 15, 2013 --- 10:47 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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 at 10:22 a.m. CDT Friday.

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 man with a half-dozen child abuse-related counts.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday, March 15, 2013 --- 12:48 a.m.

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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UPDATED Thursday, March 14, 2013 --- 11:45 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin

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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UPDATED Thursday, March 14, 2013 --- 5:27 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, March 14, 2013 --- 3:08 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, March 14, 2013 --- 10:19 a.m.

Closing arguments are today in the trial of Chad Chritton.

The man is accused of starving and torturing his teenage daughter. The girl testified that her father kept her locked in the basement, and that she endured years of physical abuse and was denied food.

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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UPDATED Friday, March 8--- 5:50 p.m.

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.

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UPDATED Friday, March 8, 2013 --- 11:47 a.m.

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, 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.

Her testimony is expected to continue this afternoon. NBC15's Rachelle Baillon will have reports on today's developments on NBC15 News at 4, 5 and 6.

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UPDATED: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 --- 7:00 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin

Chad Chritton's neighbors say he yelled at his daughter as he made her haul heavy objects around their yard.

On Wednesday, several Treichel St. residents took the stand. One of the witnesses was a former detective with the Stoughton Police Department staying with her daughter. She said she called Dane County Human Services because of what she saw.

"She was being yelled at to take, it was like a cement block, from one side of the house to the other," said Marsha Clark, who also saw the girl pushing what she said was a heavy-looking garbage can as her parents yelled for her to hurry from the house.

Another set of neighbors said they rarely saw anyone but the girl out shoveling.

"When we had the blizzard a couple of years ago we helped her shovel, me, my brother and sister, and then we insisted for her to go get some warmer clothes on," said a 16-year-old neighbor. "She was only wearing capris and a long-sleeve shirt instead of snow pants, gloves, hat and jacket."

The boy also said although his age is within a month of the girl's, she looked much younger.

The trial resumes Thursday with a doctor's expert testimony on sexual assault victims.
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UPDATED: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 -- 8:30 a.m.

The Father of the man accused of starving and abusing his teenage daughter took the stand in court.

Chad Chritton's father, David Chritton, testified about the time he spent with the girl when she was 10. The victim lived with her grandfather for a few months in 2007. He said the girl was like any other 10-year-old at the time, and that he did not notice any problems with her behavior.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 28, 2013 --- 6:30 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin

The alleged abuse victim's mother says she is devastated she sent her girl to live with her father.

Chad Chritton is on trial for abusing, starving, assaulting, and imprisoning his daughter in Madison. Police say he kept her under alarm in a basement, and that she had to ask permission for food. When she was found a year ago she gained 26 pounds in 11 days in the hospital.

In the third day of testimony Thursday, Chritton's ex-wife Heidi Pease says she voluntarily gave Chritton custody because she thought he was a good father.

When the couple divorced, Chritton moved to become a truck driver in Madison leaving Pease and the girl in Texas. Pease re-married but says that husband became abusive, and she felt she had to flee.

"He had a place that he would be able to take care of her the way that I knew I could not provide for her," Pease said. "I knew that I could not keep her safe. I truly felt I could not keep her safe and I thought if I can't save myself, I have to save [my daughter] first and that's why I did what I did."

When Pease heard of the abuse allegations, she says she rushed back to Madison.

Her testimony also alleges emotional abuse. Melinda Drabek-Chritton, who married the girl's father, will face similar charges at her trial in April. Her son Joshua Drabek is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting the girl. Pease also says in a rare phone call with her daughter, the girl said Joshua had told her Pease died in a plane crash on her way to visit. Pease says the girl was hysterical when she learned the truth.

Chad Chritton's trial is expected to continue through next week.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 27, 2013 --- 9:37 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A trial is underway in Dane County for a man accused of locking his emaciated teenage daughter in the basement.

Chad Chritton is charged with party to six felonies, including false imprisonment and child neglect resulting in bodily harm. District Attorney Ismael Ozanne told jurors Tuesday that despite being 15, the girl weighed 68 pounds and looked more like 8 to 10 years old. A passer-by who discovered the girl walking on a road near her home in February 2012 testified the girl had scrapes on her face, her hair was dirty and matted and her bare feet were purple from exposure.

The State Journal says defense attorney William Hayes told jurors Chritton had a hard time dealing with the girl's psychiatric issues and that she had threatened to kill him.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, February 26, 2013--6:10p.m.

MADISON--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, 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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UPDATED Saturday, September 1, 2012 --- 2:24 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Dane County judge has denied a request to move the trials in the case of a 15-year-old Madison girl who was allegedly starved and tortured.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Circuit Judge Julie Genovese believes an impartial jury can be found in the county.

The teen wasted away to 68 pounds after her father and stepmother allegedly locked her in the basement and denied her food. They face charges of child abuse, child neglect and other counts.

The girl's stepbrother is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting her. He also faces trial.

Genovese also ruled Friday the three defendants may have separate trials.

The Associated Press is not naming the defendants to avoid identifying the girl.

The first of the three trials is expected to start in January.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Wednesday, August 1, 2012 --- 2:10 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Monday, June 4, 2012 --- 6:45 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Sunday, May 20, 2012 --- 9:35 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — 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.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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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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UPDATED Tuesday, May 15, 2012 --- 7:00 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, May 11, 2012 --- 1:55 p.m.

From NBC15's News Partner NewsTalk 1310 WIBA:

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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UPDATED: Monday, April 16, 2012 --- 5:40 p.m.
REPORTER: Chris Woodard

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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UPDATED Monday, April 16, 2012 --- 3:05 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A prosecutor has filed more charges against a husband and wife accused of torturing and starving the man's teenage daughter and forcing the girl to live in their basement.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne on Monday filed new felony counts of causing a child mental harm, failing to protect a child, false imprisonment and child neglect against both the man and woman.

They already face charges of reckless endangerment, child abuse and child neglect. They both pleaded not guilty to all the counts Monday afternoon.

The girl's stepbrother also has been charged with sexually assaulting her.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Monday, April 16, 2012 --- 1:55 p.m.

Happening Right Now: New details in the child abuse case in Madison that gained national headlines.

The victim's father and stepmother have entered not guilty pleas today in court.

Prosecutors say the Madison couple, Chad Chritton and Melinda Drabek Chritton, withheld food from the girl and forced her to live in the basement.

They've also accused the girl's stepbrother of sexually assaulting her. He stood mute a moment ago in court, so the judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Stay with NBC15.com for continuing coverage on this story. NBC15's Chris Woodard will have reports tonight on NBC15 News at 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

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UPDATED Monday, April 16, 2012 --- 8:35 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A husband and wife accused of torturing and starving the man's teenage daughter are expected to enter pleas in court Monday.

Prosecutors say the Madison couple withheld food from the girl 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 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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Sunday, April 15, 2012 --- 11:25 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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 Monday 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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, March 16, 2012 --- 5:15 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A doctor says a 15-year-old Wisconsin girl who wasted away to 68 pounds after allegedly being denied food weighed 82 pounds as a 9-year-old.

Dr. Barbara Knox of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Children's Hospital examined the girl last month. At a preliminary hearing for the parents Friday, Knox testified that there was no indication the weight loss was due to an eating disorder.

She reiterated her diagnosis that the girl suffered "serial child torture" with prolonged exposure to starvation.

A judge found probable cause to advance to trial. An arraignment date hasn't been set.

Defense attorney William Hayes represents the father. He questioned Knox about the girl's mental history, hinting toward a suggestion the teen's allegations might be tied to anger over being abandoned by her biological mother.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, March 16, 2012 --- 8:15 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A preliminary hearing will resume today 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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 --- 5:40 p.m.
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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UPDATED Tuesday, March 13, 2012 --- 11:06 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, March 13, 2012 --- 10:56 a.m.

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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UPDATED Monday, March 12, 2012 --- 4:55 p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press

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UPDATED Friday March 2, 2012 --- 4:00 p.m.
By: Barclay Pollak

The last time Melinda Drabek Chritton and Chad Chritton were in court they appeared without attorneys. The state's Public Defenders Office denied their request for representation because of their finances. Today, both were back and this time they appeared with attorneys. However, both their motions for reduced bail were rejected.

After today's proceedings we briefly spoke with Chad Chritton's lawyer William Hayes. He said he respected the judges opinion but wouldn't say much more than that. Just like Mr. Hayes, District Attorney Ismael Ozanne wouldn't say much either.

Thomas McClure, Melinda Drabek-Chritton's lawyer, did speak at length this afternoon. He spoke about the day's decision saying that every judge needs to call them like they see them. He also asked that people wait until all the information is available before they pass judgment on his client.

McClure says, " When you're asked to draw a conclusion from a partial record it's very easy to come down with one conclusion and be wrong once more information comes out. "

McClure also talked about his client's health, the victim's weight relative to her size and the contradictions that he says exist in the criminal complaint.

"It's inferred in the complaint that there wasn't enough food and it also says that there was a full refrigerator, " says McClure.

Both Melinda and Chad will be back in court on the 13th for their preliminary hearings. Joshua Drabek, the victim's step brother and the third suspect in this case, isn't due back in court until the 19th for his arraignment.

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UPDATED Friday, March 2, 2012 --- 12:55 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Thursday, March 1, 2012 --- 12:07 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press

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UPDATED Thursday, March 1, 2012 --- 8:08 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, February 28, 2012 --- 11:05 a.m.

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) -- A malnourished 7-year-old girl kept in a dog cage in the basement of her family's Brillion house is now a 22-year-old mother and college student who's offering support to a Madison teenager who police say was starved and confined to the basement.

Chelsea Vosters tells WISN-TV (http://bit.ly/A1GPva ) her heart goes out to the 15-year-old girl who weighed just 70 pounds when she was discovered earlier this month. The teen's father and stepmother are accused of abusing her.

Vosters says she would love to talk to the girl and tell her she isn't alone and offer support and encouragement. She says she wants her to know that things will get better with time.

Vosters says through counseling she has learned how to forgive. She says she wants to give her 2-year-old son everything she never had.

------

Information from: WISN-TV, http://www.wisn.com

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Thursday, February 23, 2012 --- 4:15 p.m.
Posted By: Barclay Pollak

Her step mother, brother and father allegedly tortured her. Today all three were in court. They were suppose to have their preliminary hearings today. The victims father, Chad Chritton and the stepmother, Melinda Drabek-Chritton appeared with out attorneys.

Josh Drabek the alleged victim's 18-year-old step brother was the first to appear in court. He was joined by an attorney from the public defenders office. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing and now he awaits arraignment.

The girls father, Chad Chritton appeared next. Both he and his wife Melinda were denied public defenders. According to the public defenders office they didn't meet the financial criteria.

During his appearance Chritton said he wanted to help police with their investigation. Chritton says, " I've been wanting to sit with the police to help their investigation but because of my learning disability and comprehension difficulties I wanted to have an attorney present. "

After today's court appearances Tanya Hansen, who claims to be the victims cousin, read a statement. In it she talked about a fund the family is establishing for the victim.

She also talked about the last time she attempted to see her cousin.
Hansen says, " We were told that she was seeking treatment and it wasn't in her best interest. We had no reason to doubt that at the time."

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne briefly spoke as well today. He told us to the best of his knowledge the victim is doing well.
He also said he hasn't decided if he'll file more charges. However, he didn't rule that out.

Chad and Melinda will be back in court next Friday at 11am for a status conference. Both will probably turn to the county for help finding an affordable attorney.

The fund being set up by the family for the victim is not the same fund as the one being set up by officials in Madison. If you'd like to donate we've posted the information below.

Contributions can be mailed to: Building the Future for SLC Trust, Marine Credit Union, P.O. Box 510, Waupun, WI 53963.

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UPDATED Thursday, February 23, 2012 --- 3:45 p.m.

NBC15 News has learned a trust fund has been established for the victim in this case.

Contributions can be mailed to: Building the Future for SLC Trust, Marine Credit Union, P.O. Box 510, Waupun, WI 53963.

Donors can also visit any Marine Credit Union branch.

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UPDATED Thursday, February 23, 2012 --- 9:50 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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 (Chad Chritton) and stepmother (Melinda Drabek-Chritton) have been charged with child abuse, reckless endangerment and child neglect. The 18-year-old stepbrother (Joshua Drabek) has been charged with sexually assaulting the girl.

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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Thursday, February 23, 2012 --- 7:30 a.m.

A preliminary hearing is set for this morning for the three people charged in the horrific Madison child abuse case.

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.

NBC15's Barclay Pollak will be in court this morning. Watch for his reports today on NBC15 News.

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UPDATED: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 --- 5:40 p.m.
REPORTER: Chris Woodard

A lot of people have been asking, if there had been reports of suspected abuse in the past, why wasn't anything done?

Dane County Human Services can't talk about specific cases but you can read between the lines when they explain how this process generally works.

In this abuse case there is a 15 year history of reports suspecting abuse, 7 in total.

The state released information on those reports and Dane County works with the state. However, no one in the Dane County Human Services office is allowed to say whether they were the ones investigating.

Dane County Department of Humans Services Director Lynn Green says, "We can't because of confidentiality laws. They're very firm."

But the Human Services Director can say, in general terms, how these types of investigations work.

When they get tips or reports of suspected abuse they're either immediately ruled out or screened in for further investigation.

The department gets about 4-thousand calls a year and screens in about 2-thousand.

Green says, "I mean, we don't have the right to intervene in people's lives unless there is a substantial basis for doing that, or reason to believe that something may have occurred."

They say they need concrete evidence to investigate, like physical signs of abuse or a child victim admitting it to them.

In the Madison case the state says 7 tips, or reports, were filed and of those 4 were screened in.

Green says, "We assign it to an intake worker who goes out and does an assessment."

If they find enough evidence to make them believe they need to stay involved they'll usually go to a juvenile court to get a legal base to intervene.

Of the 4 complaints further investigated in the Madison case, 2 were ruled out. The child was determined safe.

In one from 1997 maltreatment was found but no more details are available.

The last report, from the day the child was found 2 weeks ago, is still under investigation.

Green says, "The fact we can't say anything allows people to speculate and you end up with unfortunate rhetoric."

The county says despite not talking about specifics they want people to know they are held accountable.

They use state guidelines and are all licensed social workers, monitored and inspected by the state.

The state is then monitored by the feds.

They say a lot of the work they do is also overseen by the juvenile court.

According to the Department of Human Services there has also been an outpouring of support for the victim from around the country.

They've gotten e-mails from all over with people asking how they can help.

They say they have a couple packages full of cards for the victim but at this point are not accepting and donations or presents.

They are still accepting letters of support.

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UPDATED Monday, February 20, 2012 --- 7:40 a.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, February 17, 2012 --- 12:25 p.m.

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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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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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UPDATED Thursday, February 16, 2012 --- 9:35 a.m.

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

Stay with NBC15 and NBC15.com for continuing coverage of today's developments.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 15, 2012 --- 10:25 p.m.

According to court documents, the girl had "prolonged exposure to definite starvation."

These are among the new details available Wednesday. The documents say the girl has been forced to live in the basement of the family home since 2006. The girl told investigators that she slept on a small bed and was forced to urinate and defecate in the unfinished basement, where there was no bathroom. In addition, there were times when her father or stepmother would force her to drink her urine or eat her feces. She said there was an alarm on the door going to the main level of the house that would go off if she tried to leave the basement. She had to ask permission to drink water or use the main level bathroom. She said she was rarely allowed to have food, and forced to scavenge food off the floor and from the garbage. When she was caught eating without permission, her father or stepmother would force her to throw the food away or vomit what she had eaten.

The girl was home-schooled by her stepmother, and taught out of a 3rd grade workbook.

The girl escaped the home on February 8th after her stepmother let her out of the basement to clean some papers. Her stepmother became angry and threatened to throw her down the stairs, saying the girl wasn't doing the work fast enough. The girl feared being hurt by her stepmother or father, and escaped.

Doctors say the girl is so malnourished that she has a "substantial risk of death." In addition, she faces a significant risk of refeeding syndrome, which is a metabolic disturbance in the body that can happen when someone with severe malnourishment takes in nutrients. Doctors say the girl has been exposed to physical and psychological abuse, isolation, and terrorization from death threats.

The documents also show she was taken to Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center on Friday. Interviewers are trained to keep kids with abusive pasts comfortable while law enforcement watch on a television from another room. The process is designed to prevent victims from reliving their stories excessively.

"We always like to think it's not happening in our neighborhood, on our street, in our wonderful city, and the reality is it happens everywhere," said Forensic Interviewer Jennifer Ginsburg.

She says abuse and neglect cases are actually more common in the area than many think. They hosted eight interviews last month and more than four per week last year.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 15, 2012 --- 5:20 p.m.

Neighbors say they reported abuse of Madison girl

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- 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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 15, 2012 --- 1:54 p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A Wisconsin man who found a severely malnourished 15-year-old girl walking barefoot outside in pajamas says she was bleeding from a gash on her nose and crying.

Mike Vega told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the teen he found walking near her Madison home Feb. 6 also had scrapes and a big bruise on her forehead and was so scrawny he mistook her for an 8-year-old.

Vega says while they waited in his car for an ambulance to arrive, she told him her stepmother had thrown her down the basement stairs and that she escaped through a window.

Police say the girl told officers her father and stepmother had kept her confined to the basement for years and had starved her and even forced her to eat her feces.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 15, 2012 --- 10:55 a.m.

Statement of Mayor Paul Soglin on Madison child abuse case:

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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UPDATED Wednesday, February 15, 2012 --- 10:45 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A severely malnourished 15-year-old Wisconsin girl has accused her father and stepmother of confining her to the basement of their home for years and abusing and starving her.

Police say the girl said she ate what she could find on the floor or in the garbage and that she was even forced to eat her own feces. She says she had been forced to live in the basement since 2006.

Someone called police last week after seeing the girl walking barefoot near her Madison home. The girl told police she was allowed upstairs to clean and fled because she feared her stepmother would throw her down the stairs.

The couple were arrested Friday on suspicion of child abuse and neglect. A judge on Tuesday set their bail at $20,000 each.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Wednesday, February 15, 2012 --- 9:00 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Charges are pending against a Madison man and wife arrested for allegedly torturing and starving the man's 15-year-old daughter.

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.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 --- 5:40 p.m.

Tonight Madison Police release gut wrenching details about a severe child abuse case.

They say a 15-year-old girl was tortured and held captive in her family's basement.

Police say they are still investigating and working with the Dane County District Attorney.

40-year-old Chad Chritton was visibly emotional today during an appearance in front of a Dane County Judge. He and his 42-year-old wife, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, have not been charged but have been accused by Madison Police of child abuse crimes that are horrifying.

Police say the couple were keeping Chad's 15-year-old daughter in the basement with no bathroom and very little food. Police say they even had an alarm that would go off if she went upstairs.

Assistant Dane County DA Matthew Moeser says, "The child has been diagnosed by Dr. Barbara Knox with serial child torture, prolonged exposure to definite starvation."

Police say they executed a search warrant on the family's home yesterday and online property records show Melinda Drabek owns a home in the 46-hundred block of Treichel Street.

Police began investigating the case when a passerby found the 15-year-old girl walking along the side of a road near the home Monday. She was barefoot and wearing only her pajamas.

Moeser says, "She stated the primary reason she fled the house that day was a fear the defendant (her stepmother Melinda) was going to throw her down the stairs."

The girl weighed only 70 pounds at the time and her father said it was because of medical reasons.

A social worker told police there was likely more to the story.

Moeser says, "During the course of a Safe Harbor interview conducted on Friday of last week, (the girl) did disclose physical violence committed against her by this defendant (Melinda) including strangulation.)

Police also say in 2007 someone alleged the girl may have been molested by a family member but at the time the girl said that it was not true. The family would not cooperate and police say the girl looked healthy at that time.

The parents are being held on 20-thousand-dollars bond tonight.

The girl's 18-year-old stepbrother who also lives with the family has been arrested on a probation and parole hold

Police say the girl is not enrolled in school.

In court today the judge said his concern right now is that a criminal complaint has not been filed and the couple were arrested on Friday.

He says if a complaint is not filed by Thursday the couple may have to be cut loose until charges are filed.

____________________________________________

UPDATED Tuesday, February 14, 2012 --- 4:20 p.m.

Madison Police say three people have been arrested. And they say this investigation is only beginning.

They became aware of possible problems last week when a passerby saw the girl walking near her home, barefoot, along the side of the road in pajamas.

The girl weighed only 70-pounds and a doctor, who specializes in child abuse diagnosed her condition as "serial child torture with prolonged exposure to definite starvation."

Police say she was forced to spend most of her time in the basement, without a bathroom, and an alarm went off if she came upstairs.

The girl's father 40-year-old Chad Chritton, and her stepmother, 42-year-old Melinda Drabek-Chritton were arrested on charges of child neglect and appeared in front of a judge today. Click on the PHOTOS tab above for pictures from their appearance. Click on the VIDEO LINK above for video.

The father was visibly shaken towards the end of his appearance.

The victim's 18-year-old step brother Joshua Drabek, who also lives with the family, was arrested on a Probation and Parole hold.

______________________________________________________

Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2012 --- 1:54 p.m.

Incident Report from the Madison Police Department:

Incident Type:
Child Abuse

Incident Date:
2/06/2012 - 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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