Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Teen girl struggles to overcome abuse by custodial dad, step (Oshkosh, Wisconsin)

Curious omissions here: This torture (and it was torture) was not inflicted by the "parents." It was inflicted by the custodial dad, CLINT ENGSTROM, and the step. The girl is now in the custody of the PATERNAL grandparents, though they seemed pretty lackadaisical in accepting the girl's unexplained "absences" for years on end. But what's the big surprise, really. After all they raised the psychopath under whose paternal authority all this went down. NOT ONE WORD HERE on what happened to this girl's mother, or ever the mother's family.

Also notice how badly the police and CPS f---ed up in this case. And how the psycho daddy managed to manipulate everybody into thinking the daughter was the one who was seriously mentally ill. Even a shrink.



Teen Hannah Engstrom struggles to overcome abuse from being locked up by parents

7:21 PM, Apr. 29, 2012  

Written by Adam Rodewald
Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team

OSHKOSH - A frail girl of 70 pounds huddles under pillows in a bare, attic room. Next to her lies a dirty mattress and an empty dresser. She wears old, summer pajamas, and a space heater offers little warmth on the frigid morning.

The date is Jan. 4, 2007. The girl, 12-year-old Hannah Engstrom, cries, but no tears appear in her green eyes. She longs to spend a day at the park, hear a song from her dad’s guitar or simply share a hug.

Instead, she spends 22 hours a day locked in this room.

The stress and loneliness bear down on her, and she falls into a dark part of her mind. She begins to hear voices that aren’t real but sound like relatives and friends narrating the ways she will die: a grisly car wreck or maybe bites from rabid animals living in the walls of the sparse room where her parents confined her.

She began to rip chunks of frazzled hair from her scalp and pick the sallow skin off her arms.

Engstrom, who is now an 18-year-old student, blacked out many of her memories from that day. She recalls going to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, where she thought she was placed in a special ward for naughty children. Her parents told her she was bad. She believed them.

She had been grounded for two years straight. Much of that time was spent in a room with an electronic alarm wired to the door and a security camera perched overhead. She was allowed to leave only to use the bathroom or do chores, such as cleaning up after the family’s dogs.

But as soon as she arrived at the hospital, the medical staff notified authorities of her condition. A doctor determined she had suffered a psychotic reaction due to sensory deprivation and imposed helplessness. She was malnourished and dehydrated, maybe a week or two from death.

On Jan. 12, 2007, Engstrom’s 13th birthday, she waited behind the hospital room door for her parents to arrive. The door finally opened, but neither parent stepped into the room. Instead, she saw a social worker with brown hair and a kindly smile. The woman told Hannah that her parents wouldn’t be coming. Don’t worry, she was told, it’s not because she’s bad - she was safe now.

Early that day, police had arrested Hannah’s dad, Clint Engstrom, and her stepmom, Lynn. They were charged with felony mental abuse to a child.

Hannah turned and looked at the social worker. Her mind whirled with incomprehension. After a long moment she spoke.

"You mean I didn’t do anything wrong?"

'So traumatic'

Engstrom’s case riveted the community of Oshkosh for weeks. Clint Engstrom and Lynn Engstrom, pleaded no contest on June 18, 2007, to causing mental harm to a child. The parents could have received up to 12 years in prison but entered into an agreement that imposed a four-year, no-contact order, counseling and regular check-ins with the district attorney. The Engstroms met the terms of the agreement, and the charges against them were dropped.

Hannah’s paternal grandparents, Beth and Terry Redmann, later adopted her.

"Could I have done more to stop this?" asks Beth Redmann as she recalled the events of five years ago, when she first discovered Hannah was being abused.

She doesn’t have an answer.

On Dec. 20, 2006, Redmann rang the doorbell of her son’s newly remodeled home.

She carried an armload of Christmas presents and eyed the taupe-colored vinyl
siding and sage-colored roof shingles while waiting. She had only been allowed to see Hannah a few times in the previous three years.

A young boy answered the door, said "Hi Grandma," and led her inside. But, Lynn Engstrom told Redmann she wasn’t wanted there. Beth ignored the words, pushed her way farther inside and called out to Hannah.

The stepmom told Hannah not to leave her room, and then to her other three children said, "You know what to do."

They darted up the stairs and stood on the landing in front of a door. Beth followed, forced her way past two barking St. Bernards and a beagle, rushed up the stairs, shooed away the children and turned the knob on Hannah’s door. An alarm sounded like a school bell.

She turned and grabbed Lynn Engstrom by the shirt and asked what was going on. Lynn told the grandmother to leave or she would call the police.

Too stunned to argue, Beth left. She never saw Hannah.

Later that day, Oshkosh police officers contacted Redmann and told her she was being charged with disorderly conduct, and she was issued a restraining order.

Redmann told police about the alarm, which was used to keep Hannah locked up. But, the police said they saw no evidence of abuse while they were at the home.

Redmann called child protective services the next morning. She said she was told that the information wasn’t sufficient to warrant an investigation.

"I hope no child ever has to go through what Hannah did. I hope no family has to go through what we did," Redmann said. "It was so traumatic. For everyone."

'No hope in myself'

How could this happen?

The question weighs on Hannah Engstrom. She knows she may never learn the full truth.

The grounding started one day in 2005 when she didn’t immediately put her shoes on to leave the house. She had to go two days without getting into trouble for the punishment to be lifted. It never happened.

Her parents took away privileges, toys, clothes. They pulled Hannah out of school.

To this day she can’t figure out what exactly she did wrong.

"I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone or look at anything… If the dog came in my room I’d get in trouble, but if I got up to get it out of my room I’d get in trouble. No matter what I did, it was always wrong," she said.

Her younger brother told police that his parents would spank Hannah with a wooden spoon if she left her room. He was not allowed to go in and play with her. He only got to see her when she went to the bathroom, occasionally joined them at the dinner table or was taken to the doctor.

After a year of this treatment, Hannah couldn’t take any more. She snuck downstairs and cautiously moved into the light of the living room, where her dad sat on a couch.

He was the only one home.

"You could see it in the look he gave me. There was so much pain and disappointment … anger," Hannah said.

She saw his face, turned around and went back to her room. She never said what was on her mind. She never said that she didn’t really care about herself because she thought that he didn’t love her. That he was the only person that mattered to her.

"All I could think about was his happiness, and I couldn’t ruin that," Hannah recalled. "He already looked so disappointed in what he thought I was, that I just couldn’t do it to him anymore."

Hannah gave up that day. She stopped defending herself and started to believe she was a bad person.

"I had no hope in myself."

Love for a father

Hannah takes after her dad. They both have green eyes and a delightful smile.

They’re both short and love music. He had black hair and hoop earrings that Hannah always wanted.

On his arm, he had the names of his family tattooed in Chinese letters. Hannah’s name was in the center. She wonders if it’s still there. If he looks at it every day, or if he covered it up.

In court, Clint Engstrom described his daughter as "challenging" and strong-willed. He described her as manipulative, aggressive toward other children, physically violent toward her stepmom and abusive to the family pets.

He testified that he and his wife sought help from a psychiatrist, who diagnosed Hannah with oppositional defiant disorder, mood disorder, personality disorder, anxiety disorder and possibly reactive detachment disorder. She was put on a myriad of medications and continued counseling.

That’s not the Hannah her grandparents know. She loves sports and gets straight A’s in school, and is always with her friends. She has gone on mission trips with her church and loves kids.

"She was never a problem child. It’s just the way she had been treated," Redmann said.

When she turned 16, Hannah wrote her dad a heartfelt letter. She still loved him and she felt sorry for all that happened. She hoped to make him proud someday.

The letter was delivered to Clint Engstrom’s attorney because of the no-contact order. Clint never read it. He sent it back, unopened.

"I guess he hated me as much as everyone else," Hannah said.

Dreaming of the future

Hannah turned 18 in January. The no-contact order with her parents has been lifted, but her dad has not tried to speak to her. She has given up hope of a reunion. She’s used to feeling abandoned and unloved, "but it still hurts that after all this time, he still can’t say, ‘That’s my daughter.’"

For years, she saw a counselor at CHAPS Academy, a ranch in Shiocton that uses horses to help youth deal with emotional and behavior difficulties. She still goes every now and then when she falls into one of her "funks."

Birthdays and holidays are hardest.

On Father’s Day 2009, Hannah’s grandparents wanted to do something special.

They gave her buckets of red, blue, yellow and purple paint and permission to go crazy. Hannah and six of her friends splattered the colors on her bedroom walls, ceiling and inside the closet. They wrote their names and made footprints and handprints - their personal, literal touches imprinted as permanent memories all around her.

Hannah will graduate from high school this spring, with honors for her good grades.

She’s a member of the girls’ softball team and sings in the school choir. She plans to attend Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac next fall and pursue a career as a sleep lab technician.

She dreams of starting her own family and having her own children. She wants to be the parent she always longed to have.

"I would show them the love I never got. Encourage them. Make them feel like they matter. Do things with them. … No one is going to hold them back, and no one is going to tell them they can’t have love or be a part of others’ lives.

"I want them to know they’re amazing."