Infuriating, to hear of the same old official incompetence again and again while children suffer....UNNAMED DAD in this account, though I believe he has been named elsewhere. Note that it is not explained here HOW or WHY the mother lost custody, and why this girl was moved from Texas to Wisconsin to live with her custodial father in this chamber of horrors.
Police missed warnings about tortured girl, records show
Multiple visits were made to Madison home
By Crocker Stephenson of the Journal Sentinel
March 31, 2012
On a snowy day in early January 2011, shortly before 4 p.m., a woman driving through a subdivision on Madison's southeast side saw something disturbing.
A girl. Thin. Dark hair and dark eyes. Standing on a porch. Very cold. Bare feet turned purple.
The woman asked if she needed help. The girl remained silent.
A woman came out of the house and took the girl inside, into what police now describe as a kind of torture chamber, a place where, according to a criminal complaint filed in February, the girl was beaten, starved, sexually abused and forced to eat her own excrement.
The complaint charges the girl's father and stepmother with reckless endangerment, child abuse and child neglect, and charges her stepbrother with sexual assault and child abuse.
The Journal Sentinel is not naming members of the girl's family in order to protect her identity. The father, stepmother and step brother are scheduled for arraignment April 16 in Dane County Circuit Court.
The incident in January 2011 has come to light because of a Journal Sentinel request for all reports and records regarding the girl and her family. The 27 documents that were released go back as far as 1980.
In responding to the Journal Sentinel's request, the Madison Police Department excluded all items that are part of its current investigation of the girl's alleged abuse, which means that the documents do not include the harrowing allegations that are now part of the ongoing court case.
But they do show a pattern of problems in the girl's family dating back years and demonstrate yet another case in which officials were warned that the girl was in trouble but failed to help her.
Two days after the brief 2011 encounter with the girl, the woman - troubled by what she saw - called the police.
The woman "wishes she had called that day," according to police records, "but thinks welfare should be checked."
Two officers, Carlin Becker and Mary Chavala, went to the house.
They knocked on the door and rang the bell. Nobody answered. After 7 minutes 48 seconds, they left.
That was the extent of their investigation.
They did not talk neighbors, who might have told them - as they did the Journal Sentinel - that they had seen the girl barely dressed and shoveling snow. Some had seen her foraging through garbage for food. One said she never appeared happy, that she was treated like a slave.
Police did not contact Dane County child protective services, who might have told them that, by that date, the agency had received six calls concerning the family.
"Based on what facts were given to the officers, we believe they acted appropriately," Madison Police Capt. Sue Williams said last week. "There is nothing to indicate more should have been done."
More than a year would pass before the girl would again be noticed by a passer-by, Mike Vega. She was wandering several blocks from the house, barefoot, wearing nothing but pajamas. The girl told Vega she needed help. Vega called police.
Shortly after Vega found the girl, the Madison Police Department released a statement acknowledging it had received "prior calls regarding members of (her) family."
"One case, in 2007, involved the girl," the statement said.
In that case, "an unnamed party alleged the girl may have been molested by a family member," the statement said. "The girl did not corroborate the allegation during an investigation by the MPD."
The police statement did not mention the 2011 call.
History of problems
The girl moved from her mother's home in Texas and came to Wisconsin to live with her father sometime in 2006, records show.
Several of the oldest documents that were released concern disturbances and domestic abuse reports that involve the girl's future stepmother and a boyfriend, the father of the future stepbrother charged with sexual assault.
In a report dated September 1991, the 21-year-old stepmother, then six months pregnant, tells police who were called to her parents' home that her boyfriend slapped and choked her. He denies the allegations but is arrested. The woman tells police the boyfriend has punched her several times in the past.
It is unclear how long the couple's on-again, off-again relationship lasted. The last domestic report, in which the man refuses to leave her apartment, is dated April 1998, and refers to him as her ex-boyfriend.
The records document 10 visits by police to the home while the girl lived there. Only the 2007 molestation allegation and the January 2011 call by the worried passer-by specifically concerned the girl.
Most of the reports that brought police to the girl's home involved her stepbrother.
On Sept. 15, 2009, police went to the home to recover a runaway juvenile girl.
The runaway told a police officer "that her boyfriend lives at this house and that she had been staying with her boyfriend and his family."
While the age of the runaway is unclear, the stepbrother was a few weeks shy of his 16th birthday. According to a criminal complaint in the current case, he already had sexually assaulted his stepsister, who would at that time have been 12.
In November 2011, in an unrelated matter, the now-18-year-old stepbrother pleaded no contest to intentionally contributing to the delinquency of a child and two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault involving a 13-year-old girl.
As a condition of his probation, he was ordered to undergo sex offender treatment and to have no unsupervised contact with female juveniles.
The state Department of Corrections has acknowledged state probation officers made three visits to the home, the last on Jan. 19, less than a month before the stepbrother would be charged with sexually assaulting the girl.
Visits by police
Madison police visited the home of the girl they now say was being tortured, starved and sexually abused by family members at least nine times before the teen was rescued, according to records recently released. They met with the girl once at her school.
March 30, 2007: Police speak with the girl at her elementary school after girl reportedly tells school counselor she is being sexually abused by her stepbrother. Girl refuses to cooperate with police.
June 13, 2007: Police dispatched to home. No report filed.
Feb. 13, 2009: Stepmother calls police to home because someone won't return stepbrother's iPod.
Sept. 15, 2009: Police sent to the home to retrieve a juvenile girl. She is returned to her father.
June 28, 2010: Stepmother calls police to home because the stepbrother has an odd text on his phone and threats on Facebook. Stepbrother is not home and ignores police request to call.
July 9, 2010: Police sent to retrieve a 14-year-old boy whose mother said had run away from home. Police found no one home.
July 11, 2010: Father calls police to home because the stepbrother has destroyed his room, reportedly because his mother took away his phone. The stepbrother is released to the custody of his parents.
Aug. 26, 2010: Police sent after someone reports teens in the backyard talking about drugs. Police find no one.
Jan. 13, 2011: Passer-by calls police to home after seeing barefoot girl on porch.
Aug. 28, 2011: Police dispatched to home. No report filed.