Brookfield parents sentenced after keeping child in cellar
Waukesha County Now - 3/21/2018
The mother and stepfather of an autistic girl forced to sleep in a basement were sentenced Thursday, March 1, in Waukesha County Circuit Court, in a court hearing where the parents said they were not "monsters" and the judge likened the disparity in care to a scene from "The Wizard of Oz."
The mother was sentenced to 90 days in work release and three years probation. The stepfather was sentenced to three years in prison.
The Brookfield couple was accused of keeping their daughter in the basement of their house and not allowing her to use the bathroom.
The child had no toys, books or electronics in the basement and the stepfather and step-siblings referred to the girl as "Stink." He restricted her use of the family bathroom and would not allow her to sit on furniture in the house because her stepfather thought she was disgusting, according to the criminal complaint.
Prosecuting Attorney Michael Thurston remembered telling the court this case would break their heart.
"The treatment of the girl was deeply cruel," Thurston said. "This is a case of cruelty and a case of meanness."
The mother's attorney, Becky Van Dam, said there were mitigating factors. There were Child Protective Services reports, but she said the reports were screened out but none were investigated.
"Clearly, (the mom) has made some bad decisions, (but) she went on her own and tried to seek help for (the child)," Van Dam said.
The stepfather's attorney Nicholas Martinez, said after the child was removed from the household, the couple continued to care for their two other children. Martinez said the couple shouldn't have been trying to care for the child on their own. The mother gave up her parental rights in 2017.
The child was adopted by a former social worker and while there are still some issues, she is thriving.
The girl's uncle, who was emotional, made a statement in court about justice finally being served.
"I can't imagine what (the child) has gone through, the struggles and impact it has caused her and will continue to cause her for the rest of her life," the uncle said.
The mother said she loves her child very much but had no idea how to take care of an autistic child.
"We were petrified over not having a home again, so we panicked and that is the only reason we put her in the basement," the mother said.
"I never meant to cause any harm to her. We were very overwhelmed," the mother said.
"We are not the monsters we are being made out to be," he said. "We needed help," he said.
Waukesha County Judge Lee Dreyfus said the Brookfield home was described as child-friendly during home visits, yet the child's area was not.
He compared it to the "Wizard of Oz" where the other two children had a room filled with toys. Yet it was like Dorothy before she landed in Oz for the child, the room was nothing but a cot and no toys. Dreyfus said it was like the scene where Dorothy is in the house. It was all gray, brown and dark.
The couple lived at various addresses from December 2012 until March 2015. Waukesha County Human Services were involved with the household, according to the criminal complaint, when they lived in New Berlin and Brookfield.