|Page (1) of 1 - 02/16/12||email article||print page|
Stepbrother charged with sexually assaulting Wisconsin teen; father, stepmom also face charges
MADISON, Wis. (AP) ' Prosecutors on Thursday charged the stepbrother of a severely malnourished Wisconsin teen with repeatedly sexually assaulting her beginning around her 10th birthday, in the same year she claims her father and stepmother began confining her to the basement.
Dane County prosecutors also charged the girl's father, 40, and stepmother, 42, with child abuse and first-degree reckless endangerment, which are felonies, as well as a misdemeanor count of neglecting a child.
The couple and the girl's stepbrother, 18, appeared in a Madison courtroom Thursday for an initial hearing.
Prosecutors allege the stepbrother first sexually assaulted the girl in December 2006, which was the month she turned 10, and again from February 2009 through February 2010. He is charged with first-degree sexual assault of a child without great bodily harm, second-degree sexual assault of a child and child abuse ' all felonies.
The Associated Press is not naming the defendants to protect the girl's identity. Robert Burke, an attorney who represented the three until public defenders can be assigned to their cases, requested signature bonds for the father and stepmother. He said both have strong ties to the community and that there's no risk of them coming in contact with the girl since she no longer lives in their home.
Court Commissioner Todd Meurer, however, set the a cash bail for each defendant: $22,500 for the father, $30,000 for the mother and $25,000 for the girl's stepbrother.
A woman believed to be the stepmother's sister declined to comment Wednesday when reached by phone and did not immediately respond to a phone message left Thursday at her home.
A passing motorist spotted the girl walking barefoot along a Madison street last week, bleeding from a gash in her nose and wearing thin pajamas. Mike Vega, 31, said he mistook the girl for an 8-year-old because she was so small and emaciated, and it was clear she needed help.
"It was the most shocking thing I have ever seen," Vega told The Associated Press. "A little girl looking like that. I've never seen anybody look like that, to be honest."
He called police and waited with her in his car until an ambulance arrived. She was found to weigh 70 pounds, and a doctor quoted in police reports said what the girl had gone through amounted to "torture" and that the malnutrition she suffered from posed "a significant risk of death."
The girl has been receiving medical care and is in protective custody, Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said Thursday.
The girl told authorities she had been forced to stay in the unfinished basement of her father and stepmother's home since 2006 and that an alarm would sound if she went upstairs. She said she ate what she could find in the garbage and sometimes she was made to eat her own feces and drink her urine, according to a police affidavit.
She said if she was caught eating without permission, the couple would make her throw out the food or vomit it back up.
According to police records, the girl told authorities she had been let out of the basement on the day she was found to "clean some papers" for her stepmother and that the woman became angry because she wasn't working fast enough.
The teen told Vega the stepmother threw her back downstairs but she managed to escape out a window. Vega said the girl told him she feared the woman would throw her down the stairs again. She said the woman even threatened to kill her.
Vega said the girl "wasn't crying, wasn't hysterical" when she spoke about her stepmother's alleged death threat. "But it wasn't nonchalant either," he said. "You could see fear in her eyes. It was very disturbing."
A doctor quoted in police reports said what the girl went through before Vega found her
Police said they encountered the girl in 2007, when someone alleged she might have been molested by a family member. The girl did not corroborate the allegation and her family was not cooperative, police said.
She appeared healthy at the time, police said.
Associated Press writer Carrie Antlfinger in Milwaukee contributed to this report.