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CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Madison woman to be sentenced for torturing and starving her step-daughter

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A Madison woman will be sentenced this afternoon for torturing and starving her teenage step-daughter until she got down to just 68 pounds. 43-year-old Melinda Drabek-Chritton struck a plea deal in April. She avoided a trial by pleading no contest to reckless endangerment and mentally harming a child. Those charges carry maximums of 25 years in prison and 50-thousand dollars in fines. Four other counts were dropped. Authorities said the defendant’s step-daughter was locked in a basement and starved for years, until she broke away in February of 2012. She was 15 at the time. In March, a Dane County jury convicted her husband Chad Chritton on two counts of child neglect. A mistrial was declared on for other charges, after the jury could not reach unanimous verdicts. Chritton will be re-tried on those counts starting February 12th. Also, the girl’s step-brother is scheduled to go on trial early next year on charges that he repeatedly molested her. 

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A La Crosse man will spend five years in prison for killing a woman in a drunk driving crash in central Wisconsin. 22-year-old Tyler Deal struck a plea deal. He pleaded guilty in Marathon County yesterday to one count of homicide by driving with a prohibited blood alcohol level. Five other charges were dropped – including felony counts of homicide by drunk driving and drug intoxication, and marijuana possession. Authorities said Deal’s vehicle struck a utility pole south of Spencer in February of 2012, killing 22-year-old Paige Delo of Spencer. Deal must also spend nine years under extended supervision once he leaves prison. During that time, Circuit Judge Jill Falstad ordered him to speak twice a year in panel discussions about the impact of drunk driving on victims. 

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John Spooner now says his attorney shortchanged him, and Milwaukee Police did not do their jobs in investigating the murder of his neighbor for which he was sent to prison for life. The 76-year-old Spooner wrote a handwritten note to a Journal Sentinel reporter last Friday, when a jury found he was sane when he killed 13-year-old Darius Simmons in May of last year. Spooner testified he handed out justice when he killed Simmons, after accusing the teen of stealing four of his guns in a burglary. In his letter, Spooner called the justice system “a scam,” and he took matters into his own hands after police failed to identify three teens shown on his surveillance camera at the side of his house on the day of the break-in. Spooner also complained that his attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, did not instruct him on his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. His letter also asked if police and judges can be sued, and he asked why Gimbel called no witnesses to vouch for Spooner’s character. Gimbel said he represented Spooner properly. He tells the paper quote, “I think that Mister Spooner had the view that he was a victim of everybody and anything … and that’s about as much as I can say.” 

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The egg processing company that lost most of its Burlington plant in a January fire has been fined 150-thousand-dollars for unrelated federal safety violations. Echo Lake Foods was fined by the Occupational Safety-and-Health Administration for not properly training employees on the hazards of ammonia. The ammonia is used in refrigeration systems in Echo Lake’s factories in Burlington and Franksville. The fines were based on government inspections just days before the January 30th fire that destroyed three-fourths of Echo Lake’s Burlington plant, causing 40-million dollars in damage. The inspections turned up 27 safety management violations at the two Racine County plants. Both the company and OSHA say the violations are not related to the fire or its aftermath. Echo Lake general manager Jerry Warntjes says the company may appeal the fine – and if nothing else, they’ll meet with OSHA in an effort to get the penalty reduced. The Burlington plant used to process two-million eggs a day with 300 workers. About 100 people work for the company today. 

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Police in west central Wisconsin expect charges next week against a 22-year-old woman for the death of her boyfriend’s young daughter. Amanda Butts was arrested yesterday, after 22-month-old Alexis Behlke died just over a month ago. Osseo Police said Butts was caring for the toddler when she stopped breathing. She was taken to a hospital where she died. Butts used to live in Osseo, and was arrested at her new home in the Jackson County town of Garfield. Authorities say she faces a possible reckless homicide charge in neighboring Trempealeau County, where the death occurred. 

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State Capitol Police issued 26 more citations yesterday, as the number of protestors grew during the second day of a crackdown on the Solidarity Singers for not getting a required permit. The group kept singing while the arrests were being made. Three people were arrested on other charges – one for disorderly conduct, one for resisting arrest, and one for both. The others got 200-dollar tickets for violating the Walker administration’s order to get permits for organized Capitol protests and other events. The permits were originally required for groups of three-or-more. Federal Judge William Conley recently increased the minimum to 20 while upholding other parts of the permit requirement. Administration spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said the Solidarity Singers were the only group who has not applied for a permit – and the real question to ask is why. Many cited their First Amendment rights to dissent. Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville called the police actions “thug tactics” – and the only real effect is to attract more protestors the next day. 

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Jason Schulte
Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts with his wife and two daughters. 
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