Angry judge throws the book at mom who neglected daughterAn appellate court likely will decide if a three-year prison sentence given Thursday in St. Croix County Court was appropriate for a former Bloomer woman convicted of abandoning her daughter.
By: By Chuck Rupnow, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis., Superior Telegram
HUDSON -- An appellate court likely will decide if a three-year prison sentence given Thursday in St. Croix County Court was appropriate for a former Bloomer woman convicted of abandoning her daughter.
"Needless to say, I was shocked by the sentence, and I certainly think the judge was trying to make an example," said Siv Yurichuk of New Richmond, attorney for Elise D. Will, who was sentenced to prison followed by seven years of extended supervision.
"We will certainly be appealing this," Yurichuk said, adding that she is not yet certain of the basis of the appeal.
Yurichuk said one appeal issue might be Judge Eric Lundell's consideration of a 1998 Chippewa County case, in which Will was convicted of felony child abuse and placed on probation.
Lundell mentioned that case, saying: "I can't pretend the first incident didn't happen. I really can't give you a third chance."
The teenage girl told police and testified in court that between Jan. 1 and July 23, 2011, there were times when she would be locked out of the family's house, not receive food and had to "earn back" the right to wear certain clothing and a number of shoes. She said her parents got angry with her in early January and required her to sit and eat meals in a dark room for a month, except to go to school or the bathroom.
The girl said she was soaked from rain and sweat after being locked out of her house and staying in a small tent for four days in July during intense heat and rains.
It is the same child Will was convicted of abusing in 1998.
"The choice you made was criminal; it was felonious," Lundell said. "Most people in this courtroom wouldn't treat a dog the way you treated your daughter."
Lundell emphasized that he issued the prison sentence, despite recommendations of probation by the prosecuting and defense attorneys, as a deterrent to other parents when considering disciplinary practices.
Will, 36, was sentenced between 1995 and 2005 to a total of 165 days in jail for drunken driving and other convictions, according to court records.
Assistant district attorney Frank Collins recommended three years of probation, including 90 days in jail, saying Will treated her daughter more like an object than a child. He said he based his recommendation on the incidents last year alone.
Yurichuk's probation recommendation included four days in jail, along with continued counseling and treatment sessions. She believed the Chippewa County case should not be a consideration for sentencing.
"I'm sorry for the things that happened," Will said before being sentenced. "I made some bad choices."
Will pleaded no contest and was found guilty in November of being party to abandonment of a child. A misdemeanor count of being party to neglect of a child was dismissed in the plea agreement.
Will, formerly Elise Stephens of Bloomer, was placed on probation for five years on June 30, 1998, after pleading no contest and being found guilty in Chippewa County Court of a felony count of child abuse-intentionally causing harm on April 4, 1998.
Will and her husband, Jeremee C. Will, 38, both of rural Hammond, faced identical charges, but Jeremee pleaded no contest and was found guilty in November of the misdemeanor. The felony count was dismissed. He was placed on probation for one year.
Elise Will is not allowed to have contact with her daughter.
The girl testified in October that she and Elise had a conflict, admitting that she didn't want to follow certain rules, including doing chores to earn food, and decided in July to stay in the tent, which is not designed for outdoor weather. She said she was never asked if she wanted food, but was allowed inside the house for short periods for water.
The Wills both told police it was their daughter's choice to stay in the tent and not eat because she refused to comply with family rules.
The girl eventually went back into the house and was told she had to sleep on the basement's cement floor and had to earn the right to have a pillow and blanket.
Police found the girl shivering and wearing only a T-shirt in the basement in a fetal position July 23 when responding to a call of an infant who died at the Wills' residence.
Madeline Calais Will died in the early-morning hours of July 23. She was born June 13. Initial autopsy reports indicate there was no trauma to the infant. The case remains under investigation, according to authorities.
Rupnow can be reached at 715-830-5831, 800-236-7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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