WAUKESHA COUNTY -- Brookfield parents convicted on three counts of causing mental harm to a child were sentenced in a Waukesha County courtroom on Thursday afternoon, March 1. Patrick Keller, 50, and Alicyn Keller, 44, were accused of locking their child, 13, who has autism, in an unfinished basement with no toilet or sink.
The Kellers were found guilty on Jan. 26.
During the sentencing hearing, they told the judge they were overwhelmed with the tantrums and destructive behavior, but the prosecutor said Patrick Keller, the stepfather who was in control, was just mean.
Patrick and Alicyn Keller moved from house to house in New Berlin and then to Brookfield because they say landlords got complaints regarding their daughter who has autism and is mentally challenged -- throwing tantrums.
Below are pictures of the metal cot and concrete floor where officials say the girl stayed after school, with no shower and no toilet. Her sister would speak to her through the laundry chute.
"Do what is right and just as the voice of an innocent child not able to fight for herself," said Craig Markham, the child's uncle during the sentencing hearing.
Police were called to the home numerous times, and anonymous complaints led social services to the Kellers. Video given to FOX6 News by a neighbor shows Patrick Keller yelling and swearing at other children. The 13-year-old girl remained in the home until those at school complained that she often came to class covered in her own feces.
The Kellers told the judge they made poor decisions, but were overwhelmed.
"I had no idea how to take care of an autistic child," said Alicyn Keller.
Alicyn Keller will have to spend 90 days in work release before three years probation. The judge said during the process, Patrick Keller was belligerent, one time even swearing at an investigating officer. He was sentenced to serve three years in prison.
The girl, now 16, was adopted by her foster mother. Alicyn Keller gave up her parental rights, but said she would like to see her again, and the judge said OK.
Police records show the Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services knew the girl was being forced to live in a cold basement at least a year before she was removed from her home.
According to New Berlin police reports from 2012-2014, WCDHHS was notified at least 10 times about concerns police, neighbors and teachers had about how the child was being treated at home.
In April 2016, the child’s mother and stepfather were charged with child neglect for allegedly locking the teen in an unfinished basement with no toilet or sink, forcing her to wear diapers and refusing to allow her to sit on furniture. Her mother, Alicyn Keller, told social workers she locked her daughter in the basement every day after school from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. and called her “stink.”
Brookfield police first searched the home in March, after an anonymous caller reported the child was being “treated like an animal.”
But this was not the first time police had been called. In fact, according to police records, the family had been investigated for child abuse six times between 2012 and 2014 at other homes in New Berlin. Police were also called for lost child reports and domestic violence.
If you need help for yourself or your children with autism, the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin offers support groups and programs for families in need. Go here for more information and resources.