MADISON, Wisconsin (Reuters) - A Wisconsin couple accused of starving and imprisoning their teenage daughter in a basement for six years including forcing her to eat her own bodily waste and do chores in the nude, were charged with more abuse on Monday.
Chad Chritton, 41, and his wife Melinda Drabek-Chritton, 42, were charged with causing mental harm, false imprisonment and neglecting a child by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.
The couple pleaded not guilty to the charges in separate arraignment hearings in Dane County Circuit Court on Monday. They were charged initially in February with felony child abuse, false imprisonment and misdemeanor child neglect.
Prosecutors have accused the couple of holding the girl in the basement of their home for about six years. The girl is now 15 years old.
The girl told investigators she was rarely allowed to eat and, if given food, she was forced to eat off the floor. She also told detectives the couple forced her to use boxes or bags as a toilet and to bathe in a utility sink in the basement.
Chritton and Drabek-Chritton, who are the girl’s father and stepmother, also were accused of physically abusing the girl and forcing her to do chores naked so she could not hide food in her clothing. The criminal complaint also accuses them of forcing the girl to drink her own urine and eat her own feces on several occasions.
Prosecutors also charged the couple on Monday with one count each of failure to act during a sexual assault stemming from charges filed against the girl’s stepbrother, Joshua Drabek, 18.
Prosecutors have accused Drabek of trying to have sexual intercourse and oral sex with the girl on several occasions. Drabek pleaded not guilty on Monday to felony sexual assault and child abuse charges.
The couple told investigators they home-schooled the girl and said they needed to lock her in the basement because she was a threat to her family due to mental health issues.
Charges were filed in February against the couple and Drabek after a passerby found the pajama-clad girl walking barefoot in her neighborhood and appearing “extremely malnourished.”
“I ran away this time because I just couldn’t handle it anymore,” the girl told investigators, according to the criminal complaint. “I thought she was going to hurt me and throw me down the stairs. I was afraid.”
The three defendants did not speak during the brief court appearances on Monday. Each wore a dark blue jail jump suit. They are being held in the Dane County jail.
Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Greg McCune