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Dad gets 5 years in prison for starving girl

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A judge sentenced a Wisconsin father convicted of abuse for starving his teenage daughter down to 68 pounds to five years in prison Wednesday.

The case came to light in February 2012 when a passing motorist spotted the girl, who was 15 at the time, wandering the streets barefoot and wearing only her pajamas after she ran away from her family’s Madison home. The motorist said the girl was so small and malnourished he thought she was only 8 years old. A doctor later testified that the girl’s weight was equivalent to a 9½-year-old’s and she was as tall as an average 11½-year old.

The girl told investigators she had spent most of the previous five years confined to the basement of her family’s home and was denied food despite begging to eat. She said her stepmother beat her and her stepbrother repeatedly forced her to perform oral sex on him.

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.

The father had two separate trials, with jurors in March deadlocking on some charges, leading to another trial in November. In all, he was convicted of felony child neglect, felony child abuse, reckless endangerment and causing mental harm to a child. He was acquitted of false imprisonment and misdemeanor neglect. He faced a maximum sentence of 28 years in prison and $55,000 in fines.

During his November trial, the father testified that the girl suffered from severe emotional and behavioral problems. He said she refused to eat and threatened to kill the family in their sleep. He said a psychologist suggested the girl live on a different level than the rest of the family, but he denied locking her in the basement. He did say he boarded up the basement windows, but only so the girl wouldn’t get out and raid the neighbor’s trash.

He said social workers made several visits to the home, but he couldn’t find time to follow up on her care because he was a trucker and was always on the road. He blamed the social workers for fumbling the case, saying they should have removed the girl from the home.

The stepmother pleaded no contest last year to first-degree recklessly endangering safety and causing mental harm to a child. The woman told Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese the girl had behavioral problems and she and the father dealt with her by locking her away. Genovese sentenced her to five years in prison. The stepbrother is set to stand trial on sexual assault charges in February.



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