The Oklahoma couple accused of severe abuse of their three adopted children received $4,500 a month support money from the state government of Wisconsin, where they adopted the children, the Canadian County sheriff said.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL
YUKON — The Canadian County couple accused of abusing their three children were receiving $4,500 a month support money from the state of Wisconsin, where they adopted the children before moving to Oklahoma, Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards said Thursday.
John Edward Kluth, 50, and Sonja K. Kluth, 57, were charged Tuesday with child abuse and neglect and are accused by prosecutors of severe abuse of their two adopted sons and adopted daughter. They are free on bail.
In an affidavit filed with the charges, Sonja Kluth told investigators she had “totally lost all control” when trying to deal with the children and had “become a monster.”
Prosecutors allege the Kluths beat, choked, burned and whipped their 15-year-old and 11-year-old sons and 9-year-old daughter and made them eat pet food.
The Kluths are accused of confining the boys in an unlit cellar at their residence northwest of Yukon for up to seven months at a time and keeping the eldest boy in a dog crate for up to two months, according to the affidavit. John Kluth told investigators the most recent date on which he had confined the 11-year-old to the cellar, and investigators said the low overnight temperature was 21 degrees.
John Kluth admitted to investigators he excessively punished the children but blamed the most severe abuse on his wife and said that “didn't fly with him,” according to the affidavit. He told them he and his wife were going to be accused of abusing the children, but the children came to them already damaged.
The children were adopted from Winnebago County, Wis., Edwards said. Oshkosh, Wis., is the county's principal city.
Officials at the state headquarters and Winnebago County offices of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families did not return telephone messages and e-mails seeking comment Thursday.
The Kluths were not receiving any financial assistance through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said.
She said the agency had no contact with the family until receiving a complaint on the child abuse hotline. Powell was unsure when that call came in but said DHS has worked with law enforcement since the beginning of the case.
Canadian County deputies became aware of the case when the Kluths called them Nov. 28 to report their oldest son had run away, according to the affidavit. The teen was found the next day sleeping in a box behind a Braum's in Oklahoma City, and the children were taken into DHS custody after the oldest boy told them about the abuse.
The Kluths had told authorities they homeschooled the children, but that was not the case, Edwards said. The middle child told investigators he had not been taken to the doctor since the family moved to Oklahoma. The affidavit does not state what year the family moved to Oklahoma, but says the crimes were committed in Canadian County between Jan. 1, 2009 and Nov. 28, 2010.
“They had isolated them from society,” Edwards said. “That's the reason they were able to lock them in storm cellars and dog crates for months on end and feed them dog food. ... It's the worse abuse case I've ever seen.”
The 15-year-old boy is less than 5 feet tall, and hospital professionals told investigators it likely was because of malnourishment, the affidavit states. All three children had bruises, cuts, burns and other signs of abuse on their bodies.