MADISON, Wis. — A prosecutor leveled more charges Monday against a husband and wife accused of torturing and starving the man's 15-year-old daughter and forcing her to live in their basement for years.
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne charged the couple with felony reckless endangerment, child abuse and child neglect in February. He also filed felony sexual assault and child abuse charges against the girl's stepbrother.
Moments before the man and wife were scheduled to enter pleas in court Monday afternoon, Ozanne added four more felonies against each of them, including causing mental harm to a child, failure to protect a child, false imprisonment and child neglect. He did not add any more counts against the stepbrother.
An amended information alleges the couple demonstrated substantial disregard for the girl's mental well-being and failed to protect her from her stepbrother. The document also says the couple unlawfully confined the girl and neglected her, resulting in bodily harm. It doesn't offer any details.
The man, woman and stepbrother all pleaded not guilty to every count they face.
The new charges seemed to catch the couple's lawyers, William Hayes and Thomas McClure, by surprise. Ozanne handed the new information to each of them as court began and both had to spend several minutes privately reviewing the new counts with their clients.
Neither attorney returned messages Monday afternoon. The Associated Press isn't naming any of the defendants to avoid identifying the girl.
The girl's case came to light on Feb. 6, when a motorist spotted her walking the streets barefoot and dressed only in thin pajamas.
She told investigators later that her father, 40, and stepmother, 42, had forced her to stay in the basement since 2006. She said she had to scrounge for food and sometimes was forced to eat her feces and drink her own urine. If she was caught eating without permission, the couple would make her throw out the food or vomit it back up.
She also accused her 18-year-old stepbrother of trying unsuccessfully to have intercourse with her once and forcing her to perform oral sex on him more than 10 times.
She told investigators she decided to run away that day because her stepmother had threatened to throw her down the stairs.
Ozanne filed the first charges 10 days after the girl was found.
During a preliminary hearing last month, Ozanne presented a video of the girl telling a detective she tried to run away several times but her father always found her and brought her back. A doctor also testified that the girl weighed 68 pounds on the day she was discovered.
It's unclear whether any information from that hearing prompted the new charges. Ozanne was vague with reporters after court, saying only that he and his assistants reviewed the case and thought they should file more charges.
Hayes, who is representing the father, and McClure, who is representing the stepmother, both filed motions Monday asking Judge Julie Genovese to throw out the cases against their clients because they didn't receive timely preliminary hearings.
Hayes also asked Genovese to seal the girl's medical records, saying she appears to suffer from mental health problems that are making her to lie to police. McClure, meanwhile, asked the judge to allow the stepmother to see a doctor of her choosing because jail staff hasn't properly treated her kidney problems.
Genovese scheduled a hearing on the jail issue for next week. She plans to take up the rest of the requests in May.