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Dad gets 5 years in prison for starving girl

Wis. — A Wisconsin father convicted of abuse for starving his teenage
daughter down to 68 pounds was sentenced Wednesday to five years in

Before being sentenced by Dane County Circuit Judge Julie
Genovese, the 42-year-old man read a statement insisting his daughter
suffered from severe emotional and behavioral problems that he couldn’t
handle, that his job as a trucker kept him away from home and that he
didn’t notice how thin she had become.

“There was no master plan
against my daughter,” the man said, his voice breaking at times. “I was
bailing water from a sinking boat with my bare hands.”

The case
came to light in February 2012 when the girl, then 15, ran away from her
family’s Madison home and was picked up by a passing motorist. The girl
told investigators she had spent most of the previous five years
confined to the home’s basement and was denied food.

said it was clear the girl had problems and that everyone who
encountered her failed her. But, she told the father, “it’s your turn to
accept your part in this.”

“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,” the judge said.

The girl also
told investigators that her stepmother beat her, her stepbrother
repeatedly forced her to perform oral sex on him and she was forced to
eat her feces and drink her own urine.

“They made me feel like I
was dehumanized a lot,” the girl said in a letter to Genovese. “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.”

The Associated Press generally
doesn’t name potential sexual assault victims and isn’t naming anyone in
the family to avoid identifying the girl.

Genovese sentenced the
stepmother to five years in prison this summer after the woman pleaded
no contest to reckless endangerment and causing mental harm to a child.
The stepbrother is set to stand trial on sexual assault charges next

The father went through two trials. Jurors in March
deadlocked on some charges, leading to a second proceeding in November.
In all, he was convicted of child neglect, child abuse, reckless
endangerment and causing mental harm to a child, all felonies. He was
acquitted of false imprisonment and misdemeanor neglect.

his November trial, the man testified he believed the girl’s stepfather
sexually assaulted her in Texas. After the father brought the girl to
live with him in Wisconsin, 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, he
testified, but he denied locking her in the basement. Social workers
made several visits to the home, but he couldn’t follow up on her care
because he was always on the road. He said social workers should have
removed her from the home.

The man had faced up to 28 years in
prison going into Wednesday’s sentencing. District Attorney Ismael
Ozanne asked Genovese to give the man 10 years behind bars, saying he
and his wife kept the girl isolated because they didn’t 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,” Ozanne
said. Asked after the sentencing if he agreed with five years, he simply
said he respected Genovese’s decision.

The man’s attorney, Jessa
Nicholson, countered he deserved probation. He already has lost his
family and his job, his wife is in prison and his reputation has been
destroyed, she said.

“Apparently we are still a society that favors punishment,” she told reporters after the hearing.

Genovese said the man deserved the same sentence as his wife. Together they stole five years of the girl’s life, the judge said.

2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not
be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Dad gets 5 years in prison for starving girl

Friday, January 31 2014, 10:24 AM EST

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