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.”