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The Journal Gazette

Friday, March 15, 2013 10:06 pm

Wis. man convicted of neglect in daughter's case

By TODD RICHMONDAssociated Press

A Wisconsin man accused of starving and torturing his teenage daughter was convicted of child neglect late Friday, but jurors couldn't reach a verdict on several other charges.

Jurors found the 41-year-old Madison man guilty of felony child neglect, which carries a 6-year prison sentence, but they told the judge they couldn't reach a unanimous decision on the four other felonies he faced, including child abuse and false imprisonment. He was found not guilty of a misdemeanor neglect charge.

The Associated Press isn't naming the man to avoid identifying the girl, who says she was sexually assaulted by her stepbrother. He's been charged separately, as has the girl's stepmother.

The now-16-year-old girl said her father kept her locked in the basement, and she testified she was denied food and endured years of physical abuse. She weighed 68 pounds when she fled the family's home 13 months ago.

Her father's defense attorney, William Hayes, argued during the trial that the girl had adequate food and clothing available but chose not to dress appropriately or eat well. He described the girl as a liar with mental illness and said she had threatened her stepmother and half-brother. Hayes also said her father tried to get the teenager mental health care, but failed, and that he eventually moved her to the basement at the advice of a psychologist.

After the verdicts were read, District Attorney Ismael Ozanne told the judge the state would "look" to retry the man on the outstanding counts. Asked later for clarification, Ozanne would only say that the next case was that of the girl's stepmother, "that's our first concern."

Hayes said he was disappointed that his client was found guilty of the neglect charge.

"I don't think when your client is convicted of a crime any attorney would be happy," he said, adding that he fully expects Ozanne will prosecute the man again.

The girl, who testified against her father in Dane County Circuit Court, had told investigators she spent most of five years confined in the basement of her family's Madison home, where she said she was beaten, sexually assaulted and denied food despite begging to be allowed to eat.

She told investigators the abuse started the month she turned 10. She said her stepmother beat her and her stepbrother repeatedly forced her to perform oral sex on him.

The girl left the house on Feb. 6, 2012, barefoot and lightly dressed, and was found wandering by a motorist who stopped to check on her and called police. She weighed 68 pounds.

Her father had been charged with five felony counts. His sentencing hearing hasn't been set.

The girl's stepmother is scheduled for trial in April on similar child abuse-related charges. Her stepbrother faces two counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of child abuse. His trial is set for June.