A woman accused of abusing and neglecting her stepdaughter has pleaded no contest to a felony count of first-degree recklessly endangering safety and causing mental harm to a child as part of a plea deal reached Monday morning. Four other charges against Melinda Drabek-Chritton will be dismissed.
"At this point, I'm not going to make comments on the cases, other than to say we felt those were appropriate charges," Dane County District Attorney Ishmael Ozanne said.
Drabek-Chritton now faces a maximum 25 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday for Drabek-Chritton. She was charged with child abuse, neglect, and false imprisonment. Investigators said the woman and her husband, the girl's father, kept the girl locked in their basement, tortured her and starved her down to 68 pounds.
The District Attorney's Office has been in touch with the victim in this case, called "S.L.C." to protect her identity.
"We have discussed with her attorney, and she would have an opportunity at the time of sentencing make a statement and have her feelings be known to the court," Ozanne said.
Drabek-Chritton was emotional as details of a possible plea deal were discussed in court Monday morning.
Drabek-Chritton’s husband, Chad Chritton, was found guilty last month of two counts of neglecting a child. The court also declared a mistrial on four other charges after the jury remained deadlocked.
Ozanne said in and out of the courtroom that he and his staff are preparing for Chad Chritton's retrial. Ozanne said he "does not know" how Monday's plea agreement from his spouse would affect those proceedings.
"Obviously, we are looking to retry the case if it can't be settled," Ozanne said.
Judge Julie Genovese told the court she doesn't feel like Chritton's retrial or the trial of Drabek-Chritton's son, Joshua Drabek, would affect her sentencing in this case. As a result, she and the attorneys agreed the sentencing did not have to wait until after those cases were closed.
However, no sentencing date was set by Genovese on Monday.