UPDATE: Child torture suspects in court with no attorneys - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Child torture suspects in court with no attorneys

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

MADISON (WKOW) -- The father and stepmother of a child victim of what authorities said was serial torture and starvation appeared in Dane County court with no attorneys.

A Dane County judge continued the cases of Chad Chritton and Melinda Drabek-Chritton without determining if there is enough evidence to have them stand trial.

Authorities alleged Chritton and Drabek-Chritton confined Chritton's 15-year-old daughter to a Madison home's basement with an alarm system, abused her, and denied her food, forcing her to eat scraps from garbage.

Judge Amy Smith said the state public defender determined Chritton and Drabek-Chritton were ineligible for attorneys through the public defender's office. Smith said county-appointed attorneys may represent them.

State public defender spokesperson Randy Kraft told 27 News $16,000 in 401k or savings account funds was the asset responsible for making Chritton and his wife ineligible. 

Chritton said he wants to help Madison police officers with the investigation. Chritton also referenced having learning disabilities.

The victim's stepbrother, Joshua Drabek, was bound over for trial on felony sex assault charges, after allegedly having repeated sexual contact with his stepsister. Drabek waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

The victim's cousin, Tanya Hansen of Oakfield, said her past efforts to have contact with the girl were thwarted by Chritton. Hansen said a fund has been established through a Madison law firm and a Waupun bank to receive donations to help the girl with future health care needs. Hansen thanked the community outpouring of support for the victim, which has included dozens of well-wishing letters from all over the country. 

Stay with www.wkow.com and watch 27 News at 5 and 6 for more on this story.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A Dane County judge has postponed preliminary hearings for the father and stepmother of severely malnourished Madison girl and canceled one for the girl's stepbrother.

Preliminary hearings were set for Thursday for all three Thursday morning. But Judge Amy Smith postponed the proceedings for the father, Chad Chritton, and stepmother, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, because neither has hired an attorney yet.

The stepbrother, 18-year-old Joshua Drabek, waived his right to his hearing. According to online court records, his attorney is listed as Ronald Gabriel Benavides.

Investigators say the family forced the girl to live in their basement and denied her food. The father and stepmother have been charged with child abuse, reckless endangerment and child neglect. The stepbrother has been charged with sexually assaulting the girl.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin Thursday morning for the father, stepmother and stepbrother of a child abuse victim.

Prosecutors say the abuse was at the hands of the family members. Chad Chritton and Melinda Drabek-Chritton are charged with first degree recklessly endangering safety, child abuse and neglect. The 15-year-old girl's stepbrother, Joshua Drabek, is charged with first and second degree sexual assault of a child and child abuse.

A criminal complaint says the stepmother allegedly denied her step-daughter food on multiple occasions over the years. Authorities say the 15-year-old girl scavenged for something to eat and was choked and hit by her father and stepmother. Court documents also allege Joshua Drabek sexually assaulted his stepsister multiple times, in 2006, 2009 and 2010.

The defendants can waive their right to a preliminary hearing.

Cecilia Klinglele, an assistant UW law professor not associated with the case, says a preliminary hearing is an opportunity for the defense to choose to get a preview of testimony that would be brought up in trial. 

Klinglele explains "The judge is asked to hear some testimony from witnesses and decide whether there is reasonable possibility very low threshold that a crime has occurred and if so then the judge makes that probable cause finding and the case proceeds in the direction of trial."

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