MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The stepbrother of a severely malnourished Wisconsin 15-year-old was charged Thursday with repeatedly sexually assaulting her beginning around her 10th birthday, in the same year she says her father and stepmother began confining her to the basement.
Dane County prosecutors also charged the girl's father, 40, and stepmother, 42, with child abuse and first-degree reckless endangerment, which are felonies, as well as a misdemeanor count of neglecting a child.
Prosecutors allege the stepbrother first sexually assaulted the girl in December 2006, which was the month she turned 10, and again from February 2009 through February 2010. He is charged with first-degree sexual assault of a child without great bodily harm, second-degree sexual assault of a child and child abuse - all felonies.
The couple and the girl's 18-year-old stepbrother appeared in a Madison courtroom Thursday for an initial hearing. The Associated Press is not naming the defendants to protect the girl's identity.
Robert Burke, an attorney representing the three until public defenders can be assigned to their cases, requested signature bonds for the father and stepmother. He said both have strong ties to the community and there's no risk of them coming in contact with the girl because she no longer lives in their home.
Court Commissioner Todd Meurer, however, set cash bail for each defendant: $22,500 for the father, $30,000 for the mother and $25,000 for the girl's stepbrother.
A woman believed to be the stepmother's sister declined to comment Wednesday when reached by phone and did not immediately respond to a phone message left Thursday at her home.
A passing motorist spotted the girl walking barefoot along a Madison street last week, bleeding from a gash in her nose and wearing thin pajamas. Mike Vega, 31, said he mistook the girl for an 8-year-old because she was so small and emaciated, and it was clear she needed help.
He called police and waited with her in his car until an ambulance arrived. She was found to weigh 70 pounds, and a doctor quoted in police reports said what the girl had gone through amounted to "torture" and that the malnutrition she suffered from posed "a significant risk of death."
The girl has been receiving medical care and is in protective custody, Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said Thursday.