MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin woman accused of torturing and starving her teenage stepdaughter pleaded no contest to child abuse-related charges Monday just before her trial was set to begin.
The 43-year-old woman entered the plea to first-degree recklessly endangering safety and causing mental harm to a child. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.
Both charges are felonies that carry a combined maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and $50,000 in fines.
Prosecutors agreed to drop four other felony counts in exchange, including false imprisonment, child neglect, child abuse, and failing to prevent the sexual assault of child.
The stepmother would have faced up to 55½ years in prison and $105,000 in fines if she had been convicted of all six charges. The deal allows Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese to weigh the allegations in the dismissed counts during the woman’s sentencing.
The judge didn’t set a sentencing date, saying she needed to consult her schedule and her regular clerk was out.
The woman remains free on bond.
The girl told investigators she spent most of five years confined in the basement of her family’s Madison home, where she said she was beaten, sexually assaulted, and denied food.
The girl left the house on Feb. 6, 2012, barefoot and lightly dressed. A passing motorist found her wandering and called police.