Wisconsin parents charged with starving, abusing 5-year-old

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — A northeastern Wisconsin husband and wife starved and abused their adopted 5-year-old son and accused him of manipulating a trip to the hospital so he could "vacation" there, according to criminal complaints.

Criminal complaints against Bradley Fahrenkrug, 40, and Kimberly Fahrenkrug, 38, of Wrightstown, say the boy weighed just 29 pounds and was suffering from severe malnutrition when he was admitted to Children's Hospital in Madison in April. The complaints say the couple's other children told investigators their parents made the 5-year-old wear a helmet, a compression vest, flippers and a backpack filled with weights and ordered him to march and do other exercises

The Fahrenkrugs say the helmet protected the boy from banging his head and that the other gear helped him strengthen his legs.

He was given only a small amount of food to eat while his siblings could eat as they pleased, prosecutors said. The parents denied withholding food from their son and told investigators the boy had stopped eating.

Both parents are charged with five felonies in Brown County Circuit Court, including first-degree reckless injury, causing mental harm to a child, first-degree recklessly endangering safety, child neglect resulting in great bodily harm and false imprisonment.

Barbara Knox, a physician and child abuse expert at Children's Hospital, told investigators that the boy had experienced the "most egregious example of child starvation and torture" that she has seen, according to the criminal complaints.

Investigators said Kimberly Fahrenkrug grew angry at hospital staff when they gave her son food and told them she believed he was manipulating her and others to get a "vacation" at the hospital.

Knox said the boy's current medical condition puts him at "risk of great bodily harm and/or death." The hospital said he was being monitored for a condition known as refeeding syndrome, which is sparked by severe malnutrition, and ordered that he be given unrestricted access to food.

The complaints say the parents described their son as "controlling, demanding and abnormal" in his refusal to eat and manipulate others. The staff at Children's Hospital described the boy as "sweet, polite and very normal."

The boy was also often "swaddled" in a crib, so he wouldn't be able to get out and get food, according to complaints.

Cash bond of $100,000 each has been ordered for the couple who are jailed in Green Bay. Court records do no list defense attorneys for the couple.

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