'Wicked Stepmother' Sentenced for Child Abuse, Forced Gorging

A woman who forced her stepchildren to gorge themselves on food and drink, then wallow in and eat their own vomit has been sentenced to two to six years in prison.

Venus Critchfield, 35, of Philippi was also accused of beating the children's feet with boards, and using ropes and hooks to force them to stand for long periods, said Taylor County Prosecutor John Bord.

The abuse began around 1997 and was "chronic, repeated and escalating," he said. It involved all six of Critchfield's children and stepchildren over time, Bord said, but only some of the children were willing to testify against her.

Critchfield was sentenced to the maximum possible term Wednesday after pleading guilty to two counts of felony child neglect with injury. The charges stemmed from abuse that occurred between January 2001 and February 2002.

Today, the victims range from 11 to 16 years old.

Circuit Judge Alan D. Moats called the abuse one of the worst cases he's seen in 30 years.

"You are like the proverbial wicked stepmother of fairy tales," he said. "You should never have been a mother; you are the antithesis of everything that is a mother."

State child-welfare officials had removed the children from Critchfield's care in the past, Bord said. Their father, Jennings Brian Critchfield, is serving a three- to 15-year prison sentence for abuse.