The ex-wife of a Madison man accused of locking his emaciated teenage daughter in the basement testified in his trial Thursday morning in Dane County Court.
Chad Chritton is charged with party to six felonies, including false imprisonment and child neglect resulting in bodily harm. District Attorney Ismael Ozanne told jurors that the 15-year-old girl was starved and locked in the basement by her family until she wasted away to 68 pounds.
His ex-wife, Heidi Pease, told the jury Thursday morning about their life with their daughter in Texas before their separation. She said, "(Chritton) wanted to (change professions), and that's when things went downhill."
Pease said Chritton paid child support after they separated. She had custody of the child at the time.
She said the girl, who in court records is referred to as "SLC," loved to read despite having difficulty reading.
"I always thought she had some trouble, but she always seemed happy. I knew she had a speech problem," Pease said.
Pease told the jury her second husband, Charles, was controlling and limited her contact with her family. Pease testified that Charles verbally and emotionally abused her and was investigated for meeting a minor at a hotel.
Pease said that in an attempt to protect SLC from Charles, she made contact over the Internet with Chritton to arrange the girl's move to Wisconsin. Pease signed over parental rights in 2006 and SLC went to live in Wisconsin with Chritton and his new family.
"If I wanted to keep SLC, I had to leave Charles' house, and I knew if I left his house, I was going to be hunted down, and I could not flee like that. I had to make sure SLC was going to be safe first, and I made the wrong choice," Pease said. "I was given a choice to be homeless with (SLC) or make some kind of arrangement with Chad (Chritton)."
Defense attorneys have argued the girl's eating disorder was part of the reason she weighed only 68 pounds.
But Pease also testified that when SLC was in her care, she didn't have the medical problems Chritton described.
Chritton's uncle's wife also testified that Chad Chritton had "limited intelligence" and that he admitted he was having problems caring for SLC.