The parents of a 15-year-old girl who are facing felony charges for allegedly starving and torturing the girl and keeping her in a basement have set up a website seeking donations from the public to pay their lawyers.
The girl's father, Chad Chritton, 41, and stepmother, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, 42, "have been falsely accused" of abusing the girl, the website states, and "the government wants to make Chad and his wife felons and subject them to imprisonment."
The site contains a number of pages that argue the couple's case and asks that as site visitors read the information they "remember that Chad is an eight-year Army veteran who was honorably discharged and served his country well and that neither he nor his wife has ever been arrested before for anything."
District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said he had no comment about the site.
The girl's biological mother, Heidi Carr, said in a statement that the website is "just an attempt by the defense to try and lie their way out of this horrible crime."
She wrote that Chritton and Drabek-Chritton are putting the girl "through hell by calling her crazy and a liar."
Chritton and Drabek-Chritton were arrested on Feb. 10, four days after the girl was found walking on a street near the family's home on Treichel Street on Madison's Far East Side, barefoot and dressed in pajamas.
When the girl was found she weighed 82 pounds, the weight of the average 9-year-old child, abuse expert Dr. Barbara Knox testified at a preliminary hearing. She said that the child had suffered "serial child torture."
The couple faces charges of reckless endangerment, child abuse, child neglect, causing mental harm to a child, failure to protect a child, false imprisonment and child neglect resulting in bodily harm.
The site, chadandmelindachrittonlegalfund.com, provides medical background to argue that the girl suffers from mental illness, has threatened in the past to kill or mutilate members of her family and that she has admitted in the past to falsely accusing her stepbrother, Joshua Drabek, of sexually assaulting her.
Joshua Drabek, 18, is charged with two counts of child sexual assault and child abuse.
The website states that the couple opposes child abuse and believes abusers should be held accountable but that "teenagers lie, and some teenagers have severe mental health problems that can account in part for their actions."
It also states that doctors and other professionals will "exploit someone else's misfortune for their own gain" and that the media have been "all too willing to latch onto the government's position."
The website is registered to Chritton, who is in jail, but the contact address and phone number on the registry are that of his lawyer, William Hayes of Beloit. Hayes and his law office are listed on the website as contacts and as the collectors of donations.
In a telephone interview Friday, Hayes said he only runs one website, for his law office, and does not run any others. He declined to discuss the content of the site, saying that he is "apprehensive" about discussing the case and has an ethical obligation not to.
Hayes said he has filed a motion to move the case out of Dane County because of excessive pre-trial publicity.
Drabek-Chritton's lawyer, Thomas McClure, did not return a call for comment. Joshua Drabek's lawyer, Ronald Benavides, said he was not aware of the website.
Chritton and Drabek-Chritton are scheduled to appear in court Friday.
— Bill Novak of The Capital Times contributed to this report.