Starved girl's family members charged; failed interventions - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Starved girl's family members charged; failed interventions documented

Chad Chritton Chad Chritton
Melinda Drabek-Chritton Melinda Drabek-Chritton
Joshua Drabek Joshua Drabek

MADISON (WKOW) -- The father and stepmother of a starved teenager were charged with several felony crimes in Dane County Court Thursday, as state officials documented a half dozen social service interventions over several years with no apparent success in protecting the child.

Court commissioner Todd Meuer set bail at $30,000 for Melinda Drabek-Chritton, 42, on charges of reckless endangerment and child abuse, and $22,500 for Chad Chritton, 40, on reckless endangerment, child abuse and child neglect charges.

The girl's stepbrother, 18-year-old Joshua Drabek was charged with sexual assault for alleged actions against his stepsister. Drabek is already on probation for the sexual assault of a separate child.

A criminal complaint details years of alleged mistreatment, including denying the girl food, keeping her in a basement with an alarm system, choking and striking her.

"This has been going on for years," assistant Dane County district attorney Matthew Moeser said.

The girl, now 15, was found by a passerby earlier this month as she walked in her pajamas and barefoot along a McFarland road. Authorities said the girl weighed 70 pounds.

The complaint states the girl's face appeared sunken with her collarbones sticking out, and that she was"gorging" on food after authorities got her to care. The complaint states the girl gained 17 pounds in a matter of days.

According to the complaint, the girl told authorities Drabek-Chritton often denied her food, while Chritton claimed food would trigger diabetic reactions and render the girl prone to violence. Court documents state Drabek, two small children in the household, and Chritton and Drabek-Chritton would eat normally, while the girl would scavenge for food from garbage and go days at a time without eating. Her stepmother, Drabek-Chritton, was listed in court records as 370 pounds. Authorities said there was no evidence to support family claims of the girl's alleged medical conditions, including eating disorders.

A state summary of child protective service reports to the Dane County Department of Human Services documents a half dozen contacts with the girl or her family over alleged mistreatment between 1997 and the present, with only one contact resulting in finding of substantiated maltreatment.

The complaint states the girl attended Glendale Elementary School in the past, but often would refuse to leave the school bus to go home. The complaint states during one social work investigation, staff received information Chritton and Drabek-Chritton were "...trying to make basement bedroom not look like a dungeon."

"It also appears that the family in the past was not cooperative with the department of human services or the city of Madison police department," Moeser said. Court documents state Chritton and Drabek-Chritton refused social workers access to their home during at least one investigation, and refused staff access to Drabek and the girl at times when both were minors. State and county officials were unavailable to comment on whether court actions were considered or attempted to overcome parental objections during investigations, with officials citing confidentiality rules.


MADISON (WKOW) -- The father and stepmother of a 15-year-old girl have been charged for allegedly torturing and abusing her; her stepbrother has been charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting her.

Chad Chritton and his wife, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, were charged with multiple counts  Thursday afternoon in Dane County Court. They were both charged with felony counts of first degree recklessly endangering safety and intentionally causing harm to a child. They were also charged with a misdemeanor count of neglecting a child.

The girl's stepbrother, 18-year-old Joshua Drabek was also in court Thursday. He was charged with two felony counts of sexually assaulting a child, as well as one felony count of child abuse. Dane County prosecutors say Drabek first sexually assaulted the girl around December 2006, then again from February 2009 to February 2010.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Officials with the Dane County district attorney office says a parent and stepparent will be criminally charged Thursday in connection with the alleged torture and starvation of a teenage girl.

Authorities said Chad Chritton, 40, and Melinda Drabek-Chritton, 38, were arrested Friday after Chritton's 15-year-old daughter was found injured and wandering near a McFarland road. Court documents state the girl weighed 70 pounds.

27 News will have a crew in the courtroom and will have more throughout the day on and tonight on 27 News at 5, 6, and 6:30 p.m.


MADISON (WKOW) -- A state corrections official told 27 News a probation agent visited the Madison home of an alleged child torture victim in December 2011.

But spokesperson, Tim LeMond, declined comment on what the agent saw there, citing an ongoing criminal investigation. LeMond said the visit was in connection to the victim's stepbrother's sex assault conviction.

Authorities said the victim's step brother, 18-year-old Joshua Drabek, was arrested Friday for an unspecified probation violation. His mother, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, and his stepfather, Chad Chritton, were arrested for alleged child abuse. Authorities alleged Chritton's 15-year-old daughter was tortured and starved, with the girl weighing 70 pounds when found injured and wandering near a road by a passerby.

Court records show Drabek had sexual contact with a 13-year-old acquaintance. As part of a plea bargain, records indicate a Dane County judge allowed Drabek to at least temporarily avoid a more serious sex assault conviction, registration as a sex offender and the heightened monitoring associated with that classification.

Dane County Sheriff's spokesperson Elise Schaffer told 27 News someone also served a summons and complaint in connection with the family's unpaid utility bill eight days before the arrests. Schaffer said Drabek signed the documents, but it's unclear what the person serving the summons saw. Schaffer said the process server was not a sheriff's deputy.

A Madison police official said officers were also at the house in 2007 to investigate suspicion the victim was being molested, but failed to find sufficient evidence and dropped the case. The official indicated social workers may have also been involved, but an official with the state Department of Children and Families has not commented on the outcome of social work contacts.

Court documents state the victim maintained she was home schooled. State law requires online registration of home school arrangements. A state Department of Public Instruction spokesperson said confidentiality rules bar comment on whether the required registration took place. Similarly, a Madison schools spokesperson cited confidentiality rules in declining comment on any attendance by the victim in Madison schools.

Drabek-Chritton acquired the home in 2005 after being selected by Habitat for Humanity, and undergoing a background check and helping to build the house on Treichel Street. But Habitat spokesperson Cheryl McCollum said even though Drabek-Chritton was pregnant with Chritton's child during her time as an applicant, she listed herself as a single mother without Chritton as a family member. Records indicate the victim lived at the home in 2006 or earlier, although she also was not listed as a family resident. McCollum said if the father and child had been listed as residents at the time Drabek-Chritton occupied the home, the family's eligibility for the home may have been affected.

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