OSHKOSH, Wis. – A 13-year-old girl testified Tuesday that her parents ordered her to stay in her room for months as punishment for bad behavior that included hitting, kicking and lying.
The girl said she had to be good for two days in a row for the punishment to end, but the most she could manage was one day.
After the girl testified Tuesday, a judge ordered her father and stepmother tried on one count each of causing mental harm to a child. Winnebago County Circuit Court Commissioner Daniel Bissett said the couple showed "substantial disregard" for the teen's mental well-being.
Handcuffed and in jail clothes, Clint and Lynn Engstrom showed no emotion in response to the judge's order. They each face up to 12 1/2 years in prison.
The Engstroms' attorneys said the couple would plead not guilty at a hearing Monday.
"They are good parents," said Joe Hildebrand, who represents Lynn Engstrom. "There has never been a complaint on their other three children. They tried everything to their wit's end to help this kid out."
Police have said the couple locked the girl in an upstairs bedroom for up to 22 hours a day for nearly two years. But the girl said Tuesday that the door to her room was never locked.
"I wasn't locked. I was put in my room," said the teen, who wore a Green Bay Packers football jersey bearing Brett Favre's No. 4.
The girl and her psychiatrist, Dr. John Korger, testified that she was an A student who had no discipline problems at school.
But the girl said she stole food, had a bad attitude and misbehaved at home. Korger said he asked her why she didn't behave for two days to end the grounding. Her response?
"Mostly things like, 'I am not sure. I don't want to give in,"' the doctor said.
Korger treated the girl for about a year for three emotional disorders. When she didn't seem to make much progress in individual therapy sessions, he recommended the family bring in outside help, he said.
Lynn Engstrom has said the couple followed Korger's order on how to discipline their daughter when they confined her.
But Korger released a statement Friday saying he never recommended the girl be locked up. He testified Tuesday that he knew the girl was grounded, but did not realize she had been isolated with no toys, books or other means of stimulation.
The criminal complaint described the girl's room as furnished with only a urine-soaked mattress, blanket, pillow and empty dresser.
The doctor said he saw the girl on Jan. 4 and diagnosed her as being mentally ill after she said she was afraid of getting rabies from dead animals in the wall.
The Engstroms took their daughter to an Appleton hospital the next day and told workers she was hearing voices. They were charged Jan. 16.
The girl testified Tuesday that she was grounded in February 2005 but went to school through last spring. A typical day for her last summer was "just sitting on my bed, unless I did chores or I was called to eat."
She said she did not return to school in the fall because Korger had suggested sending her to a residential treatment center. But she never went to one because her family's insurance wouldn't cover the cost.
Instead, she was admitted to a home-bound program run by the public schools. The girl said she began picking at her fingers in the fall and by late last year was pulling out her hair because she was bored.