A shocking incident unfolded in Milwaukee's Bluemound Heights neighborhood, leading to the arrest of a couple after their children were discovered running naked and bruised in the street.
The children, a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old, were spotted by alarmed residents who did not hesitate to alert the authorities. The sight of these children, their bodies covered in red marks, bruises, and blood, was so disturbing that a prosecutor could only describe the situation as "something out of a horror movie."
The mother, identified as 34-year-old Katie Koch, and her boyfriend, 38-year-old Joel Manke, are now facing serious charges. The couple has been accused of chronic child neglect and false imprisonment.
They are currently being held in the Milwaukee County Jail, WISN reported.
The incident took place on Thursday, July 13, in the 100 block of South 71st Street. According to the criminal complaint, Milwaukee Deputy Fire Chief Schuyler Belott flagged down an officer after concerned neighbors reported that a woman had "violently dragged" one of the children back into the house.
This act of violence was the spark that ignited the investigation, leading to the discovery of the horrifying conditions the children were living in.
Chris Eder, a neighbor who called 911, was quoted saying:
"I'm not going to ever forget, the way they looked when they came running out of that house, never forget that. They didn't have any clothes on. None. Their hair was, you know, it just had looked like it had never been brushed. Their faces were pure bewilderment. They were just looking all around. I don't think they'd ever been outside before."
Upon arrival, Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) officers confronted Koch, who identified herself as the boys' mother.
The first officer to enter the home described it as a "terrible hoarding situation." The house was filled with a distinct smell of urine and feces, and trash was piled throughout the home.
Inside the children's bedroom, the officers found feces smeared all over the walls and a latch on the door that could lock the children inside from the outside. When questioned about the substance on the walls, Koch claimed it was "clay, paint, and chocolate."
A neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous, told police he saw a shattered window of the house, and then moments later, he saw one of the kids on the air conditioning unit outside of the children's window. He then saw the children running down the street without any clothing on. He mentioned that he hadn't seen the children outside in three years.
Chris Eder, who has lived down the street for more than 20 years, said she had never seen either one of the children. She expressed her concern, saying:
"Eventually, they'll learn. I mean, they'll get the help they need. And I hope they realize how people really did care about them."
When questioned, Manke admitted to boarding up the kids' room windows. She claimed it was"to keep the children from bothering the nosy neighbor" and confessed they kept the latch on the door to prevent the children from leaving "due to their autism." He also acknowledged, "he knew how the children were living was not right but he had to pick his battles."
Koch admitted to the police that her children had not received medical care in a "year or two." Furthermore, she admitted they had never been to school either.
She also confessed that she "doesn't have a proper curriculum for homeschooling the boys" and that they use educational applications on their tablets.
Koch is being held on a $30,000 bond and has a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 26.