Prison for starving girl headlines made news today, as one Wisconsin father was convicted of abuse, according to a Jan. 29 ABC News report. The 42-year-old dad starved his teenage daughter until she fell to a mere 68 pounds. Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese sentenced the abusive father to five years in prison, as he insisted that his daughter’s shrinking frame was not his fault. According to him, his daughter’s emotional problems, coupled with his trucker job that kept him away from home kept him from noticing that his daughter was nearly skeletal.
“There was no master plan against my daughter,” the man said. “I was bailing water from a sinking boat with my bare hands.”
According to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, the dad’s arrest stems from a February 2012 incident where a motorist saw the then 15-year-old girl wandering the streets barefoot and in her pajamas, and assumed that the malnourished girl was only about 8-year-old. That was not far off the mark, as subsequent medical testimony at trial showed that the girl’s actual weight was equivalent to that of a 9 1/2-year-old.
The teenage girl told a harrowing story to investigators, explaining that her family had confined her to the basement of their home over the previous five years, and that she was denied food, enduring beatings from her stepmother, and sexual abuse from her stepbrother, who reportedly forced her to perform oral sex on him on several occasions.
While the judge acknowledged the girl’s emotional problems, she told the father, “it's your turn to accept your part in this.” Judge Genovese continued, “What I think you did was put your head in the sand. It's your job as a dad to see it and you didn't. Really, the buck stops with you.”
ABC News reports that in a letter to the judge, the girl explained, “They made me feel like I was dehumanized a lot. It's all thanks to my stupid dad and stepmom for not giving me an education and keeping me locked up for most of my life and making me feel like I was in a scary spot in my life.”
Initially, the father faced up to 28 years in prison, and prosecutors asked the judge for 10 years, arguing in part that he and his wife kept the girl isolated because they did not want her to tell anyone she was being abused. “The course of conduct would have ended in [the girl's] death but for her courage to run away,” District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said. Though Ozanne did not get the 10 years he sought, when asked after sentencing what he thought of the judge’s five year sentence, he stated that he respected the decision.
The judge sentence the stepmother to five years in prison, and the stepbrother is set to take center stage in his sexual assault trial next month.