MADISON, Wis. - An attorney for Chad Chritton, a father accused of locking up and starving his teenage daughter, told a jury Tuesday Chritton became obsessed with protecting his daughter after taking custody of her.
During opening statements in a trial against him, Chritton's attorney said the girl had plenty of food to eat but she chose not to eat it. The attorney said the girl had multiple personalities, and some of the personalities were violent.
Chritton is facing six felony charges connected to the 15-year-old's abuse. He is accused of locking the girl in the basement and denying her food until she wasted away to 68 pounds.
The defense attorney told the jury understanding the timeline of events will be important to understanding the case.
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne talked about the girl's history during his opening remarks before a jury. He said her biological mother in Texas signed away parental rights to protect her daughter from her new husband.
Her husband was arrested for trying to meet a young girl at a hotel who turned out to be a police officer, according to Ozanne.19098486
Ozanne said the girl had less than 1 percent body fat. He said she's now in the care of a foster family and weighs 120 pounds.
"You're going to hear about a child who has thrived when she was taken out from under the control of Chad Chritton and his wife," Ozanne said.
The prosecution played the initial call for help from the man who found the girl, known in court documents as SLC.
SLC was discovered after she ran away from her east side home last February, barefoot in pajamas with no coat. She told witnesses she was escaping her abusive stepmother.
The defense said there is no evidence the girl was starved, and said the vitals doctors recorded could have been synonymous with eating disorders. He said the girl broke into a locked freezer and consumed 15 pizzas, 20 corn dogs and other food. Chritton was concerned the girl might have diabetes, according to his attorney.
The jury heard about the Chritton home's intricate camera surveillance and alarm system. Defense attorney William Hayes said those were precautions because Chritton was obsessed with protecting his daughter.
"There are reasons he did everything, none of them malevolent," Hayes said. "Chad says, 'I don't have the answers. I can't figure this out. I don't know what I'm doing. I need help.'"
The defense said the girl had adequate clothes available to her and food at her disposal, but she was the one who chose not to dress appropriately and eat well.
Chritton's wife, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, is also facing six felonies, including child abuse and neglect. The girl's stepbrother has been accused of sexually assaulting her.