A Wisconsin couple appeared in court via video July 10 facing accusations of abusing and starving an adopted 5-year-old boy so severely that at one point he weighed only 29 pounds.
Police said that Bradley J. Fahrenkrug, 40, and Kimberly M. Fahrenkrug, 38, forced the child to sleep in a crib and ordered him to walk around with a weighted backpack and flippers, all while severely restricting his access to food, reports WBAY. On July 7, the pair were charged with false imprisonment, child neglect that caused severe bodily harm, mental harm to a child, first degree reckless injury and first degree reckless safety endangerment. They are being held pending a $100,000 bail each.
"The things they required this child to do," Sgt. Dave Poteat of Brown County Sheriff's Office began, speaking to WBAY, "they were starving him, forced exercise and making it more difficult. Five years old, being locked into a crib basically, locked in the room and weights placed upon them. You can't even imagine this stuff happening and then, here you sit it and you're getting this information and going, this can't be right. But, yet, it is."
When the Fahrenkrugs had the boy hospitalized April 6, doctors documented that the child suffered from "severe malnutrition," according to the complaint. The adoptive parents said that the boy refused to eat at home and was "controlling, demanding and abnormal" and would "manipulate others."
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Bradley claimed that the boy would lie and steal food, and Kimberly said that the child was faking illness to get a "vacation" at the hospital. She also yelled at the boy and handed hospital staff a helmet to keep him from hitting his head on things when upset. She told workers that he was not allowed to watch TV or do any other "fun activities."
"As we looked into it, it did not seem like this was actually legitimate claims of the behavior problems and all this treatment or whatever you want to call it, being placed upon this child," Poteat said. "This was, plain and simple, it was mental and physical abuse and torture."
The hospital workers found the boy to be "sweet, polite and very normal," and a subsequent foster parent observed similar behavior.
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He could have died in the hospital, as he had shown symptoms of refeeding syndrome due to malnourishment.
At home, the parents reportedly swaddled the child tightly in a crib at night and, at one point, allowed him to eat only leftover soup. He did not want to, so he did not eat.
When investigators visited the house shortly after his hospital stay in April, they found that he had a bruise on his face. The boy stated that Kimberly struck him and told him not to tell anyone. Bradley claimed that they boy had fallen in the bath.
The Fahrenkrugs' neighbors told WFRV-TV that the couple had always been upstanding neighbors and community leaders.