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Jury begins deliberations in Chritton child abuse trial

Closing arguments concluded Thursday

MADISON, Wis. - Closing arguments are completed in the trial of the father accused of starving and torturing his 16-year-old daughter.

The trial against 41-year-old Chad Chritton was wrapping up Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court. He faces five felony child abuse charges and one misdemeanor charge.

The jury started deliberations Thursday afternoon.

The girl testified that her father kept her locked in the basement, and that she endured years of physical abuse and was denied food.

The girl, who in court records is referred to as "SLC", weighed less than 70 pounds when she ran away 13 months ago.

The defense said the girl had adequate food and clothing available, but chose not to dress appropriately or eat well.

During closing arguments, Assistant Dane County District Attorney Matthew Moeser said Chritton didn't try to get help for the girl, and recounted the timeline of events in the case and the witnesses the jury heard from over the past two weeks.

"Starvation ends in death, and that's where SLC was heading," Moeser said. "The defendant endangered SLC's safety by engaging in criminal misconduct to deprive her of food."

Moeser said the abuse was punishment for a threat Chritton's daughter made years ago.

"When does confining a child in the basement stop being reasonable discipline? When does it simply become another form of abusing that child or causing that child mental harm?" Moeser asked the jury.

In closing, Moeser recalled the victim's testimony about the mold-covered mattress she slept on as she was locked in a basement for years.

Chritton's attorney, William Hayes, cast doubt on SLC's testimony and said her stories about how she was treated changed numerous times.


He said Chritton repeatedly asked authorities for help with SLC, and that Chritton was doing what he could to help his daughter, who has diagnosed mental health issues. There was no credible evidence that SLC was ever locked in the family's basement, according to Hayes.

"It's her mental illness, her mental problems, and that's why she's doing what she's doing," Hayes said.

Hayes told the jury that it can only begin considering a guilty verdict if it believes everything SLC said.

Hayes argued that SLC was a problem child that Chritton couldn't control.

"As (Chritton) sits here today, he's innocent. The law says he's innocent and it doesn't change until you folks say something else," Hayes said.

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