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In child abuse trial, man's father, neighbors tell of concerns over girl's well-being

In child abuse trial, man's father, neighbors tell of concerns over girl's well-being

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Neighbors of Chad Chritton testified Tuesday that they saw his daughter eating out of the trash and shoveling snow wearing insufficient clothing, leading one to call child welfare authorities in 2009.

Chritton, 41, is in the second week of a trial on a number of felony charges, including child abuse, reckless endangerment and child neglect. The trial, originally slated for two weeks, is expected to stretch into a third week.

Chritton's estranged father, David Chritton, also testified that he and his wife took in the girl at their Minnesota home for a summer and that he never saw any of the bizarre behavior that Chad Chritton had described to authorities after his daughter, appearing emaciated, was found on Feb. 6, 2012, walking barefoot and wearing pajamas near the Chritton home on Madison's Southeast Side.

The girl, who was 15 at the time, weighed 68 pounds and had dirty, matted hair.

David Chritton testified that in 2007, the girl came to stay with his family in Champlin, Minn., a Minneapolis suburb. He said the girl "was not used to playing" and had to be shown how to throw a ball and ride a bike. He said she also learned how to use inline skates and ride a scooter.

He said that as the summer drew to a close he and his wife considered enrolling the girl in school in Champlin, but Chad Chritton said that he wanted the girl to return to Glendale Elementary School in Madison.

She never returned to school and was instead home-schooled.

When David Chritton brought the girl back to Madison, he testified, he told his son that he thought Chad Chritton's wife, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, didn't have the girl's best interest in mind.

"Chad said, 'That's enough, leave,'" David Chritton testified. He said that since 2007, his relationship with his son has been "pretty much non-existent."

Drabek-Chritton, 43, who faces charges similar to her husband's, is scheduled to be tried in April. Her son, Joshua Drabek, faces child abuse and child sex assault charges and will be tried in June.

Mark Stuntebeck, who is a neighbor of Chritton, testified that in June 2009 he reported Chritton to Dane County Human Services because he was concerned about the girl's welfare. He said it was a decision he made after much deliberation.

By then, Stuntebeck said, he had seen the girl pick food from her family's trash and eat it and shovel snow in the winter wearing improper clothes.

"I reported that I was concerned about (the girl's) welfare because it seemed to me that she was made to do most of the work around the house," Stuntebeck said. "And by my observation of her picking through the trash, she wasn't getting enough to eat."

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