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Jury selected for abuse case trial

Published On: Feb 24 2013 10:33:07 AM CST   Updated On: Feb 25 2013 01:20:21 PM CST
Chad Chritton
MADISON, Wis. -

A trial is set to begin for a Madison man accused of starving and torturing his teenage daughter.

Chad Chritton and his wife, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, are accused of locking the girl in the basement and denying her food until she wasted away to 68 pounds.

They each face six felonies, including child abuse and neglect. The girl's stepbrother has been accused of sexually assaulting her.

The girl told police the couple had kept her confined to the basement of their Treichel Street home since 2006 and that they beat her, starved her and forced her to eat feces.

The victim was 15 years old when a driver spotted her wandering barefoot in pajamas outside near her home on Madison's southeast side and called police. The driver said the teen was so scrawny, he mistook her for an 8-year-old.

Opening statements are in the father's trial are expected to begin Monday or Tuesday. A jury was selected on Monday.

Former Madison Police Department captain Ellen Schwartz now lends her experience to the board of directors for the Rainbow Project. The nonprofit provides support for victims and families who experience trauma and abuse.

"Regardless of what happened, the fact of the matter is that child abuse happens all of the time," Schwartz said.

The victim in this case, referred to in court as S.L.C., will testify in the trials against her parents. Schwartz said that's an incredible burden for any child to bear.

"I understand that in a trial situation, that the accused have a right to confront the accuser, but it's going to be very, very -- I can't imagine how difficult," Schwartz said. "And the thought of people telling her that she, that her testimony could put her parents in prison, that's not her fault."

Schwartz said throughout the high-profile case, she hopes people will realize child abuse is happening in a number of homes.

"Their cases may not be quite as sensational, but it's just as life-impacting for them, just as future-impacting for them," Schwartz said.

According to Schwartz, Dane County Department of Human Services received more than 6,000 child abuse reports last year. There were more than 38,000 reports statewide.

"It could be happening next door, and if you think that you see it happening, report it," Schwartz said.

Schwartz currently works as a child sexual abuse advocate in Green County.

For more information on the Rainbow Project, visit www.therainbowproject.net. For more detailed data on child abuse in Wisconsin, go to www.preventchildabusewi.org.

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