Stepmother Given Five Years in Torture, Sexual Abuse Case

Once again, only five years in prison for crimes that will scar this girl for life. Five years for no remorse, and for blaming the victim.

Madison — “The stepmother of a severely undernourished teen who was found wandering barefoot and thinly clothed through the streets near her Madison home in February 2012 was sentenced Friday to five years in prison.

In sentencing the 43-year-old woman, Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese disagreed with depictions of the then-15-year-old girl as having been tortured. She had been kept locked in the basement, forced to forage through garbage for food, had no access to a toilet, kept home from school and, according to the girl, beaten and sexually molested.

The girl, Genovese said, suffered “sustained and profound neglect.”

Genovese said the stepmother was but one of many adults who had failed the now 16-year-old girl, including police, child protective services and school officials, who did not intervene until the girl ran away in February 2012.

Genovese said those responsible for the girl’s condition would fill her courtroom and she would not turn the mother into what she called “a scapegoat.”

A passerby found the girl wandering near her home. The girl, wearing little more than pajamas, told officials she had run away because she was afraid her stepmother was going to kill her.

The girl weighed but 68 pounds.

The stepmother, who is not being named to protect the girl’s identity, pleaded guilty in April to first-degree reckless endangering safety and causing mental harm. She faced up to 25 years in prison on the combined charges.

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne had asked Genovese to sentence the stepmother to eight years in prison.

He called the girl’s home “a house of terror and torture” and said the stepmother had failed to take responsibility for the girl’s suffering.

“I was flat out shocked at the victim-blaming and lack of responsibility and an attempt to say it is not her fault,” he told the judge.

“There is no acceptance of responsibility,” he said. “There is only blaming others.”

The stepmother told the court that the girl had exaggerated her condition and had made things up.

“I tried to be a good mother to her under the circumstances, but I failed,” she said.

“I gave up,” she said.

The girl’s biological father was convicted of child neglect in March, but a jury deadlocked on other charges. His retrial on those charges is scheduled for November. He attended the hearing Friday and wept when Genovese announced her sentence.

The girl’s stepbrother, who was charged with sexual assault of the girl and child abuse, is scheduled to stand trial early next year.

The girl was not in court, but Ozanne read her statement to the court.

The girl, who moved in with her father and stepmother in 2006, wrote that the woman “had me lose six years of my life.”

“I can really, extremely tell you right now and cross my heart and hope to die that I am telling the truth that I was very cold, really hungry, physically and emotionally hurt, and terrified all those years.”


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9 Responses to Stepmother Given Five Years in Torture, Sexual Abuse Case

  1. Kevin F says:

    ‘”The stepmother, who is not being named to protect the girl’s identity, pleaded guilty …”
    The abusers are the ones who are always protected by this legal anonymity. Victims are not protected at all.

  2. Jess says:

    Ugh I hate judges like this!!!! Scapegoat? You know who the scapegoat was? The little girl.

  3. Tornad0sRul says:

    Also, a child has to die before someone believes that they are mistreated. That is how disgusting our society is. Everyone should be ashamed and this judge should be condemned and forced to receive further education because he/she is quite obviously uneducated in the area of abuse/neglect, and if so he/she should NOT be a judge. DO NOT RE-ELECT THIS JUDGE!

  4. Tornad0sRul says:

    This is where we need to make a point and to take advantage of the opportunity to make the point. Every adult who knew, suspected, or was directly responsible for this abuse should be given prison time. Until we put the message out there that selfish adults who know about or suspect child abuse and do nothing, say nothing, or even help to cover up the abuse, are going to be severely punished, society will continue to work together to cover up these crimes. I was hoping that the Penn State scandal would change that but I have not seen that change. Narcissists, abusers, sociopaths, and pedophiles, are experts at manipulation, and the ones who are allowing the manipulation while ignoring the abuse will never stop doing that until the threat of jail time enters their decision making process.

    • Alethea says:


      I think one day I would like to take this into action. I can’t right now because of many things on my plate, but it’s an important mission.


  5. Sam says:

    Once again, only five years in prison for crimes that will scar this girl for life. Five years for no remorse, and for blaming the victim.

    * Your words really hit home for me. After my son was sexually assaulted, I looked up the amount of time or the sentence for rape. I found that it can be about five years …. I was appalled! This is not enough time for this crime. THIS IS NOT PERFECT JUSTICE AT ALL! I feel angry, frustrated and saddened. This poor sentencing sends a message of apathy or lack of concern & indifference.

  6. melissa lee says:


  7. Little Nel says:

    The whole family was involved in the abuse of this girl.

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