Madison man and wife arrested for allegedly torturing, starving man's 15-year-old daughterA Madison man and his wife have been arrested for allegedly torturing and starving the man's 15-year-old daughter, who told authorities she was forced to live in the basement of their home on the city's Southeast Side for years.
By: By Sandy Cullen, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
A Madison man and his wife have been arrested for allegedly torturing and starving the man's 15-year-old daughter, who told authorities she was forced to live in the basement of their home on the city's Southeast Side for years.
The girl, who weighs about 70 pounds, told authorities she was forced to drink her urine and eat her feces, according to a police affidavit. She said she was forced to live in the basement of the home at 4609 Treichel St. since about 2006, eating only what she could pick off the floor, find in the laundry or take out of the garbage, and that she has been physically injured by both her father and stepmother.
Chad G. Chritton, 40, and Melinda J. Drabek-Chritton, 42, were being held Tuesday in Dane County Jail. Bail for each was set at $20,000.
Joshua P. Drabek, 18, the girl's stepbrother, also was arrested on an alleged probation violation.
A doctor specializing in child abuse who examined the girl Friday said she suffered from "serial torture with prolonged exposure to definite starvation," Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said.
Dr. Barbara Knox of American Family Children's Hospital told police the malnutrition the girl suffered "poses a significant risk of death" and that chronic starvation had caused her puberty to be arrested, the affidavit states. Knox also said that because of the starvation and severe malnutrition, the girl would be at high risk for other disorders and complications that can lead to death.
DeSpain said a passerby notified McFarland police after seeing the girl walking barefoot and wearing only pajamas a few blocks from her home on Feb. 6. Paramedics were called to evaluate the girl, who was taken to a Madison hospital.
According to the affidavit, the girl told authorities she fled the residence because she was afraid "Melinda was going to throw me down the stairs." She said she had been let out of the basement to "clean some papers" for Drabek-Chritton, who became angry because she wasn't doing it fast enough and threatened to throw her down the stairs.
DeSpain said the girl's father initially gave police medical explanations for her condition, but a hospital social worker told police there was likely much more to the case.
DeSpain said the girl was forced to spend most of her time in the basement without a bathroom and was given little to eat, and an alarm would sound if she went upstairs.
According to the affidavit, Drabek-Chritton was home-schooling the girl.
Police searched the home Monday and seized potential evidence, DeSpain said.
Drabek-Chritton has owned the home in the Twin Oaks neighborhood near McFarland since 2005, purchasing it from Habitat for Humanity.
Perry Ecton, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Dane County, confirmed Monday evening that Melinda Drabek had applied with Habitat in 2004 and closed on the home in December 2005 as a single mother with two boys. Ecton said there was no mention of a girl in the application to his knowledge and that Chad Chritton was referenced in the application as the "father of one of the boys and a friend -- not living in the home."
Ecton added that families accepted into Habitat go through an extensive background check, which includes a credit report, landlord verification, employment verification and searches of Wisconsin court records and sex offender registries. Habitat also requires an in-home visit with families before they are allowed to move in.
"Habitat's first and foremost priority in this situation is the health and well-being of the girl," Ecton added.
In 2007, an unnamed person alleged the girl may have been molested by a family member, but the girl did not corroborate the allegation and she appeared healthy at the time, DeSpain said. A detective told other agencies involved to contact police if the girl disclosed more information about the allegation.
-- State Journal reporters Ed Treleven and Jeff Glaze contributed to this report.
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