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Prosecutors argue Chritton starved his daughter

Published On: Feb 27 2013 02:45:55 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 27 2013 09:30:24 PM CST
Chad Chritton

A trial is under way in Dane County for a man accused of locking his emaciated teenage daughter in the basement.

Chad Chritton is charged with party to six felonies, including false imprisonment and child neglect resulting in bodily harm.

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne told jurors that the 15-year-old girl was starved and locked in the basement by her family until she wasted away to 68 pounds.

Defense attorneys argued the girl's eating disorder was part of the reason she weighed only 68 pounds.

But the prosecution called doctors and nurses to the stand Wednesday who testified that an eating disorder didn't appear to be the cause of the girl's unhealthy weight.

Testimony from a half-dozen witnesses focused on the victim's actions after she, only identified as SLC, was admitted to a hospital.

A St. Mary's Hospital emergency room physician took the stand first, saying he treated the victim and called Child Protective Services.

"I heard enough things in the history that I was very concerned that she was being abused," said Dr. Matthew Swedlund.

Nurses testified that SLC would order extra food and hoard it to be sure to have it for later.

"I know (SLC) always had extra food. She would keep it in her bedside table and she always, at all times, had peanut butter, a knife, crackers," said Sherri Roe, a St. Mary's Hospital nurse.

The four nurses who testified Wednesday had similar testimony about their observations of SLC.

The witnesses said they never saw the girl throw up her food, supporting the prosecution's argument that SLC had been denied food rather than having an eating disorder.

During SLC's 11-day stay at the hospital, she gained about 25 pounds. The nurses also said SLC didn't feel safe at her home on Madison's east side.

The girl was discovered after she ran away from her home last February, barefoot, in pajamas and with no coat. She told witnesses she was escaping her abusive stepmother.

"(SLC) said that she was downstairs behind the locked door and the only time she got to eat was when her dad came home around 1 p.m., and she had to knock to see if someone could get her some food," said Sommer Hartung, a St. Mary's Hospital nurse.

Defense attorney William Hayes stated that SLC's hospital labs showed she wasn't near death or in extreme distress, and Swedlund agreed with that on the stand.

"(Her labs) were lower than what you wanted, and her labs were easily brought into correction," Hayes said.

Hayes told jurors that his client had a hard time dealing with the girl's psychiatric issues and that she had threatened to kill him.

The defense said Chritton was protective of SLC at the hospital.

"He continued to check up on her, continued to bring clothes to her, and was fully cooperative with hospital staff," Hayes said.

Hayes argued that SLC continued to ask for her father, even after authorities denied her family contact.

Chritton's trial is expected to last two weeks.

Chritton's wife, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, is charged with six felonies, including child abuse and neglect. The girl's stepbrother has been accused of sexually assaulting her.

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