Man on trial in sexual assault of stepsister

Scales of justice
WLUK file photo.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The Wisconsin teenager who was found walking barefoot and in her pajamas two winters ago was sexually assaulted twice by her older stepbrother beginning when she was 9 years old, prosecutors said during opening statements Tuesday at her sibling’s trial.

After running away from home in Madison in February 2012, they said she was admitted to a hospital where she told doctors she had been sexually abused and starved. She had weighed just 68 pounds at one point.

The stepbrother, now 20, is accused of sexually assaulting the stepsister when he was 13 and she was 9, Assistant Dane County District Attorney Matt Moeser told jurors. He faces three felonies: first-degree sexual assault of a child without great bodily harm, second-degree sexual assault of a child, and child abuse-intentionally cause harm.

“If you believe what (she) says, he’ll be guilty,” Moeser said.

After the girl told her father and stepmother about the alleged first assault, they put her into in-patient psychiatric care, the prosecutor said. Her parents later moved her into an unfinished basement and starved her, he said.

When she mentioned something in school that led to a social worker getting involved, her parents sent her to live with her grandfather in Minnesota, Moeser said. The girl was then brought back to Madison and home-schooled, though Moeser said she didn’t receive much education. Today she is 17 years old and still in middle school, he said.

The girl’s dad was sentenced in January to five years in prison after being convicted of child abuse, child neglect and other charges for starving the girl. The stepmother received a five-year sentence last year after pleading no contest to reckless endangerment and causing mental harm to a child.

Defense attorney Ronald Benavides told jurors to keep an open mind when listening to testimony from witnesses. He said witnesses bring their own perspectives and may have a personal stake in the case’s outcome.

“Remember, imparting of evidence is a process,” Benavides said. “Wait till the end of the process.”

The stepbrother pleaded no contest to sexual assault charges in November 2011 in a case involving a second girl. He received a deferred sentence and probation. His probation was revoked after his stepsister’s story came to light, and a judge sentenced him last June to 15 months for the 2011 assault. He’s already served the time.

He also faces sexual assault charges in a case involving a third girl. Court records show that charges in that case were filed in December 2012, 10 months after he was charged with assaulting his stepsister.

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