MILWAUKEE (AP) — When the malnourished 15-year-old awoke each morning, she could hear her family eating and getting ready for the day. If she felt especially brave or desperate she would call to her stepmother and beg for food, but usually she just went back to bed and hoped her hunger pangs went away.

The girl was 70 pounds when she was rescued. She told investigators during lengthy interviews at the hospital that most of the food she ate was scraps she found on the floor or in the garbage. She had spent most of five years in the basement of her family’s Madison home, where she was beaten and sexually assaulted.

The girl’s statements, contained in court documents, paint a troubling picture of physical, mental and sexual abuse. The girl describes running away, only to be found, brought home and threatened. Confined to the basement, she had no one to ask for help. She wasn’t allowed to go to school or church, have visitors or talk on the phone.

Dane County officials say the girl is getting help now. She gained 17 pounds after about a week under doctors’ care, a criminal complaint said. She has been placed in foster care, and child welfare officials say there’s been an outpouring of support from people across the nation, who sent cards and letters.

Her father and stepmother have been charged with child abuse, child neglect and reckless endangerment. The charges carry a maximum combined prison sentence of 11 years, 3 months. The girl’s 18-year-old stepbrother is charged with child abuse and child sexual assault and faces 68 years behind bars if convicted.

The three have preliminary hearings set for Thursday morning, and prosecutors say more charges are likely. The Associated Press isn’t naming them to avoid identifying the girl. The AP does not usually name victims of sexual assault.

The defendants and their relatives have declined to comment on the charges. The stepbrother’s attorney did not immediately return a phone message Monday, and the father and stepmother are still applying for public defenders.

The girl told investigators the abuse started the month she turned 10. Her stepmother beat her, and her stepbrother repeatedly forced her to perform oral sex on him. That’s also when the family began keeping her in the basement.

Because it had no bathroom, she said she often bathed in a basement sink that had no hot water and relieved herself in boxes or containers. If she made a mess while doing so, “they will make me eat it. Or drink it or rub it on my face,” she said.

She said she was forced to do chores naked and had to call upstairs for permission to eat. She was often told her stepmother was too busy to feed her.

“I know it’s a lie,” the teen told police. “She’s playing with my brother upstairs. I can hear her upstairs watching TV.”

She wasted away to 70 pounds. In contrast, police records say her father weighs 240 pounds and her stepmother 370 pounds.

The girl implied she could unlock the basement door but said there were motion sensors and an alarm that would draw her stepmother’s wrath. Still, she said she fled a couple times, but her parents always found her and threatened to report her to police as a runaway.

Neighbors expressed concern. One called authorities after watching the parents scream at the girl as she was forced to push cement blocks from one side of the yard to the other for no apparent reason. However, the parents blocked county workers from speaking with the girl.

While there might have been more chances to seek help, the girl said she didn’t until Feb. 6, when her stepmother threatened to throw her down the stairs. Terrified, barefoot and lightly dressed, the girl bolted through the door and into the cold, wandering aimlessly until a motorist stopped to check on her and eventually contacted police.

“The human brain can only tolerate so much trauma, so much fear,” said Ernie Allen, the president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “What children in captivity tend to do is figure out whatever they have to do to survive. So we should never be surprised when children don’t do heroic things, when they don’t try to escape. It’s pretty clear that this girl was in a situation in which she had no power, in which every aspect of her life was controlled.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (49)
  1. MN Taxpayer says:

    The girl dwindled to 70 pounds while the Step-mom tips the scales at 370? Put that beech on the poo diet in the pen so she can drop a few hundred pounds and get a feel for what her step-daughter went through!

  2. Enough said says:

    This story is just too sad. The people who did this to this person do not deserve up to 68 years in prison. They should be locked up, urinated on daily and left only with excrement to eat.

    1. tan pup says:

      Yeh, and it sounds like that is the only thing her step mother didn’t eat. I think we need to get out the rope and find a tall oak tree with a strong long and high branch. . .

    2. Les Johnson says:

      If you read the story, the people who did this to her face 11 years and 3 months maximum sentence.

      Only the 18 year old brother faces 68 years for his crimes.

      Why incarcerate them at all? Why not force them to surrender their lives? Do you endorse human warehousing as punishment and/or rehabilitation?

      1. Lori D says:

        I think the “parents” should get life in prison with nothing but maybe bread and water. There is just no excuse for the abuse they did to this child. They probably did stuff to the brother too but that will come out in trial and he will probably get off because he said they did things to him to make him do what he did to his sister. The parents and brother all need to nver get out of jail.

        1. Les Johnson says:

          If there is no excuse, then why should they be allowed to continue with their lives? Why shouldn’t they forfeit their right to existence and be done with it? Or are you thinking they can be rehabilitated? If not, why bother?

          1. Willow says:

            Death is too easy for these people. It’s too quick a release. Let them rot for the rest of their lives so they can feel guilty.

    3. Rissa says:

      The odd thing is that only the step-brother faces 68 years, but the father and step-mother face less than 12 years. The 18yo step-brother was probably confused about what was right and wrong. After all his parents locked up the girl like an animal when he was only 13 years old. I’m not excusing him, just saying the parents deserve a sentence at least equal to his.

      1. donna says:

        I feel that these people should be treated the same way that child was. What in the world can a child do that is so bad. They are gifts from the creator they are a gift. If and when they go to prision I hope that they have a horrible life there if one at all. I hope and pray that this young girl can recover from this terrible ordeal. Pray to the creator that no other child should have to go through some like this. Pray and thoughts are with this young girl.

      2. ep tor says:

        Strange that the two “parants” face only 11 years and the stepson 68 years. The parent’s actions were life threatening and probably would have shortly killed the child but she would have survived the sex assaults. Just shows how perverse the justice systems is – the potential penalties should be reversed. Probably a throwback to the religions influence on the law since to the church life on earth is cheap and it’s better to be murdered and die young than have to live life defiled by a rapist. That’s a common theme across all religions. and all religions try to influency the law with their supertitious beliefs.

  3. Must Protect the Sanctity of Marriage... says:

    Horrific child abusers like these monsters can legally get married and have children. So can rapists, murderers, pedophiles, etc. just as long as they marry someone from the opposite sex. What simple-minded hogwash. Same-sex couples actually have to be thoughtful when having children which, as it turns out, is actually good for the child.

    1. Sanctity needs a map... says:

      You lost?

    2. CF says:

      Another girly-boy with an agenda. This has nothing to do with your mental state.

      1. Frank says:

        Being an abuser has nothing to do with your mental state? That’s really messed up, CF.

      2. Agree and agree says:

        Sounds like the wrong forum/place to be addressing this same sex thing.
        That said I can say some of the best parent combo’s I have ever seen are same sex. I’m dead set against the marriage between same’s but that doesn’t mean they can’t excel at parenting/mentoring a child

  4. meh says:

    I’m a little confused here. 11 years? They both face 11 years in prison? That’s it?????? I really hope that I misunderstand that.

    1. meranda says:

      that was my thought when i read this. 11 years is not enough for everything this girl has been put through. yes the step brother is getting 68 years which i feel is still not enough, but the two people who were supposed to protect her?!!? 11 years? where is the justice in that?!?!

    2. Willow says:

      They should face the rest of their lives in prison with no chance of parole for what they did. They are lucky she didn’t die.

  5. missy says:

    No mention of this girl’s real mother. Did she pass away? Did she abandon her? I hope this girl can recover and have some sense of a normal life. Her childhood, innocence and trust have been stolen from her. I pray that the family who is caring for her now has a double portion of love, patience and tenderness to shower on this girl. She is a fighter and a survivor, that’s for sure.

    1. Jenna says:

      The real mother lived in Texas with a sex offender husband.

  6. Red Flag says:

    “However, the parents blocked county workers from speaking with the girl. ” If this is true, why didn’t this person get help? Did I read this wrong? If so, someone should be fired!

  7. something fishy says:

    Fabulous legal system we have, isn’t it? These monsters only face 11 years in prison for torturing a child and destroying her childhood. The poor girl will never entirely get over this as 1/ of her life was lived in constant fear, pain and torture. The “parents” should be locked up for life in a dirty cell with only water and bread crumbs.
    Why didn’t the social worker call the police when refused access tot he child? What child abuser is going to say “sure, go ahead and talk to the child alone”. The system is a broken joke.

    1. Dates way back says:

      It never waas fixed. My grandparents used to tell me stories of a few “families” in the area that did the same – and the people in the system couldn’t get in. This was in the 20’s.
      Maybe for the best – they did some horrific things inside the orphanages and “state hospitals” to kids back then too …..
      for some reason we like to say we always want and do the best for kids but history says bullchit

  8. HuH!?! says:

    um whats with the cover pic???? lol

  9. Did you know that over 60% of the world population are a bunch of freaks like this? says:

    Gee, Milwaukee huh? Jeffrey Dahmer’s neighborhood. Great. Something wrong with the water over there, or what? Tell ya what, to all you freaks out there reading this story – if we ever find you doing something like this to a fellow human being, well, let’s just put it this way, your days are numbered. Someone needs to burn down that house to begin with….

    1. Red Buttons says:

      Where did you get that 60% figure? Nonsense.

      And, not that it matters where it happened, but it wasn’t in Milwaukee, it was in Madison. Read the article again.

    2. Jenna says:

      It didn’t happen in Milwaukee, it was is Madison. I’m not entirely sure why the story is being reported from Milwaukee, but this family lived in Madison, and they are being prosecuted in Dane County courts.

  10. MAJ says:

    I’m thinking some people should be fired in the Social Services Dept. Gross failure in follow up on this case.

  11. Michele says:

    The story came out of Milwaukee. The child’s home was in Madison.

  12. sheryl says:

    Didn’t the girl have any other family? Why would no one else check on her after that long? I agree…make those two fatties eat their poop. They are sick.

  13. Pundit says:

    Why are the authorities releasing this information?

    Why is the media printing it?

    They are victimizing the girl as much as the psychotic parents.

  14. HDMC says:

    A hot knife. thats what thiese pigs should get. sickening. the loss of their 3 worthless lives would be an acceptable solution.

    how does something like this carry on for so long?
    friends, family, neighbors, and this went on for five torturous years?

  15. marion says:

    an eye for an eye is what they deserve. im so sorry this happened. child protective services is definitely backwards always has been. another problem we have these days are people minding their own business too much. as a neighbor idda snapped just seeing you bein screamed at and forced to the physical punishment with the blocks. my prayers are with you since i can’t help anymore than that. keep looking up though there are brighter days ahead.

  16. just sayin says:

    The parents and the step brother should be shot on spot. Next please!

    1. just sayin says:

      Oh, and they should let her do it too.

      1. Les Johnson says:

        Yeah I’m sure a teenage girl is sufficiently mature to handle the emotional responsibility of shooting her family to death, as offered by the United States Government… Come on… Think…

  17. Jack Knoff says:

    I hope she gets at least a $20 million book and or movie deal out of it- “Starverella”. It’s the least that society could do to help this poor young lady through the recovery of this atrocity.

  18. dexter says:

    Cut off their parents feet with a chainsaw and let them suffer the rest of thelr life. Well see how they walk to food with no feet.

    1. Uncle Rico says:

      They should make a “Human Centipede” out of these three… Some of you on here will get this one…

      1. Uncle Chico Rico says:

        minds a bit sick again today ….. well, better days ahead.

        1. No one likes you says:

          we can put you at the tail end

    2. Disgusted with Mankind says:

      Love it Dexter! Is that really your name or did you pick it bc of the show? We need some people like Dexter the show, I swear! They deserve to have their feet cut off and then be killed!! Fat disgusting pigs. There is no exuse for letting them live after the way they treated this child. Why in the H*LL was something not done after this was reported to CPS, not once but TWICE at least. Two different neighbors have said that they called and reported it.

  19. tpaw says:

    Bright side…three less votes for Walker. To soo? Well then don’t bring up the same sex marriage issue. Talk about mentel.

  20. aimshin says:

    Gross, Sick & Sad. Glad she got out.

  21. mb says:

    soo sad what only in America!!!!!!!!! pepole get rich over night, pepole abuse , fathers, mothers, abuse their child , Because theres sooooo much freedom, becasue THE LAW THE LAW give ABUSER, OR ABUSERS , KILLERS SOOO MUCH FREEDOM TO DEFEND THEMSELVES. BS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Once get them abuse them the same way.
    ONLY IN AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So Much Law, But LAWS DONT MAKE SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Michele says:

    Actually, mb, this stuff happens all over the world. Read a newspaper and climb off your agenda.

    1. Sonjay says:

      It’s great you support this kind of behavior because it happens in more then one place. I hope you have fun burning to death after a head-on collision because you know it happens all over the world.

      1. Red Buttons says:

        Yes, well Michele was responding to mb’s claim of “only in America” which is of course ridiculous. And you surmise that she supports this kind of behavior? Please try again.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

More From WCCO | CBS Minnesota

Good Question
Best Of Minnesota

Watch & Listen LIVE