Juneau County received a jolt March 12 upon the revelation of what local authorities are calling the worst case of child abuse in memory.
Troy and Lee Ann Miller, both 37, of Necedah have been charged with 15 felony counts for the alleged abuse of their oldest daughter, whom Lee Ann had from another relationship, for the last seven years.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal’s report of the March 17 criminal complaint, the 17-year old daughter was shocked with an electric dog collar when doing chores, shot with a pellet gun, beaten with a plastic pipe and choked until she passed out.
At times she was forced to consume sewage water or an entire bottle of mouthwash. Her mother cracked or knocked the daughter’s teeth out with a hammer by Ryan Masse, State Reporter
if she was caught stealing food.
The daughter slept in the family’s garbage-filled basement and was not allowed to be seen by company. She was not allowed to celebrate her birthday or Christmas with the family.
“The good news is that she didn’t die, so she can be rehabilitated,” said Mike Roraff, Director of Juneau County’s Human Services Department. “But as far as malicious acts go, this really ranks up there.”
The abuse allegedly began seven years ago when the Millers moved to a rural home in Necedah. Three years ago the daughter was pulled out of school; her mother claimed she would be home-schooled, and few, if any, outsiders had seen the girl since. Many residents were unaware of the daughter’s existence.
The abuse was discovered March 11 when the girl managed to slip a note detailing her situation to a friend, whose mother alerted the local school counselor.
Troy and Lee Ann Miller are now being held in Juneau County Jail on a $25,000 cash bond. If convicted, the couple could face more than 100 years in prison.
The Millers have three other daughters, all natural children from the Millers’ relationship, who were allowed to attend school and were not victims of abuse.
According to Patti Herman, the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Wisconsin, it is not uncommon for parents to single out one child for abuse in this manner.
“That is the pattern we often see,” Herman said. “Sometimes the child has a special need that particularly stresses the parents, sometimes the child reminds the parents of a disliked uncle or someone. But one child being abused is very typical.”
The Juneau County case is one of approximately 40,000 reported cases of child abuse in Wisconsin each year, although the actual number of abuses is likely much higher than the reported numbers. In instances of sexual abuse, authorities believe as few as only one in 10 cases are reported.
The most common form of child abuse involves neglect, followed by more serious instances involving physical abuse.
Herman said the Juneau County case is at an entirely different level.
“This was an exceptionally uncommon case, an extreme situation of brutal, torturous factors,” Herman said. “We all have to be alert for changes in the family system and watch for behavioral cues that can signal the existence of this type of abuse.”
Necedah residents were shocked by the abuse charges, but Roraff says the community of slightly more than 2,000 inhabitants has responded positively.
“The community has been very supportive of the girls,” Roraff said. “When something this tragic happens, it’s very nice to see the community rally in the way it has.”