By STAN MILAM
ELKHORN — A Lake Geneva couple each face 10 felony counts of physically abusing their six adopted children after being accused of offenses ranging from spraying the kids with pepper spray to making them stand naked in the snow.
Martin and Kathleen O’Brien, both 49, also face seven additional misdemeanor counts of being party to a crime of disorderly conduct. If convicted of all felony counts, each would face a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The Town of Bloomfield Police Department was notified Aug. 3 by the Walworth County Department of Health and Social Services that children adopted by the O’Briens were reporting abuse by their parents. Four of the six adopted children are siblings from the former Soviet Union.
The six adopted children range in age from 9 to 17. The couple have two biological sons.
The 17-count criminal complaint details different instances and types of abuse that it alleges occurred in the couple’s home at N2128 Clover Road. The couple, either independently or together, are accused of:
-- Stripping the children naked as part of punishment.
-- Dragging the children by their arms while the children were naked.
-- Kicking the children in the groin.
-- Spraying the children in the face and on the neck and chest with pepper spray.
-- Bending a child’s arm into a “compliance-type” arm bar.
-- Hitting the children with a stick.
-- Slapping the children in the face.
-- Stabbing one child in the hand with a knife.
-- Grabbing children by the throat and lifting them off the ground.
-- Striking children in the groin with a knee.
-- Picking one child off the floor by an ear causing the ear to tear and bleed.
-- Striking children with a ruler.
-- Placing one child in a “bin” while Martin O’Brien struck the outside of the bin with a log.
-- Striking one child in the chest with a flashlight
-- Forcing the adopted children to eat frozen loaves of bread off the floor before bedtime while the biological children watched.
-- Forcing the children to stand naked in the snow three to four times a year.
-- Locking the children in a bedroom for four to five days at a time.
-- Beating the children with a belt.
-- Choking one child because of a prayer he said.
The complaints indicate that the incidents occurred between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2011. The children reported the abuse Aug. 3, 2011. The complaint does not say where the children are now.
Court records indicate the O’Briens were released Friday on $10,000 signature bonds after initial appearances. The court ordered that the O’Briens have no contact with the children unless court-ordered in an accompanying Child in Need of Protection or Services case.
Walworth County Judge James Carlson scheduled a preliminary hearing for the O’Briens at 2:30 p.m. Friday, July 6.