By Derrell Connor Special To Channel 3000
You sick bastards.
That was the first thought that ran through my mind when I first heard about allegations of what happened to a 15-year-old girl in Madison. According to her statement to police, she was held captive in a basement by her stepmother, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, and her father, Chad Chritton, for five years with no bathroom or hot water, forced to do chores naked as punishment, eat leftover food and garbage on the floor, even her own feces.
And if that wasn't enough, she was repeatedly tortured and beaten by Drabek-Chritton, and sexually assaulted by her 18-year-old stepbrother, Joshua Chritton, according to the criminal complaint.
By the time the girl managed to escape and was found by a Good Samaritan, she weighed only 70 pounds.
It makes you angry and sick to your stomach at the same time.
Every once in a while, you hear about a story like this, but you don't imagine it ever happening in your city, or in your neighborhood. You just can't believe that you may actually live amongst people who could be cruel, disturbed and evil enough to hold captive anyone -- especially a child -- deprive them of the basic necessities and treat them less than human.
A stepmother who allegedly inflicts physical and emotional damage, who hands her son, a convicted sexual predator, a new victim. A father who allegedly told his own daughter that she had autism and Asperger's syndrome, despite the fact that she had never been diagnosed or taken any medication. He also told police that they kept his daughter in the basement because she was disturbed, that they found knives under her bed, and he and his wife were fearful of their lives, according to the complaint.
I think it's safe to say that we know who the real disturbed ones are.
As terrible as this story is, the real tragedy may be the fact that quite possibly this could have been avoided. There may have been signs for several years that something wasn't right. There were neighbors who had reported witnessing the girl outside being yelled at and forced to move cement blocks around for no apparent reason. There were visits from probation agents on three separate occasions since mid-December. The girl's two half brothers live in foster care. There were contacts with county social workers dating back to 1997. Joshua Chritton is currently on probation for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. And yet these people managed to keep this alleged abuse from authorities and agencies by hiding her in the basement.
As we continue to learn more about what may have happened in the Drabek-Chritton home, many questions will be asked. How did state probation agents and social workers not know that something was very wrong? How thorough were they in inspecting the home? How closely were they monitoring Joshua Chritton? I'm sure there will be an investigation into the probation and social service processes and procedures. But on the top of my list of questions is this: how could anyone think of doing these things? And why would you even want to? We may never know the answers to those questions, but one thing's for sure: if they are convicted, they should never again see the outside of a jail cell.
Several days ago it was discovered that the home that Melinda Drabek-Chritton shares with Chad Chritton and Joshua Chritton was built by Habitat For Humanity, a charitable organization that helps low-income families with affordable housing. If they had any ounce of decency at all, they would return it. They don't deserve charity.