Katie Koch, 34, was arrested in late July and charged with two felony counts each of chronic neglect of a child and false imprisonment, and two misdemeanor counts of neglecting a child, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Law&Crime.
Some those counts were dismissed in Milwaukee County court as the defendant accepted legal culpability for three other charges.
The state agreed to dismiss one count of false imprisonment and the two lesser counts of child neglect. In exchange, Koch pleaded guilty to two counts of chronic neglect of a child resulting in emotional damage and one count of false imprisonment — which combined both victims.
“I’m doing well, thank you,” Koch said in response to a question from the judge as proceedings got underway.
Entirely drama-free, the defendant answered in the affirmative each time she was asked whether she understood the charges against her, the rights she was waiving, what she was pleading guilty to, and the potential punishment she faces when sentenced next year.
The judge, with no fanfare, accepted all three guilty pleas.
The state intends to ask for a combined sentence of 20 years.
The sentence recommended by the prosecution would be bifurcated: 10 years in prison under initial confinement, which cannot be reduced by good behavior, and 10 years in extended supervision. Koch’s attorney will be allowed to, and likely will, argue for a lower sentence.
The judge, however, won’t be bound by the terms of the plea deal and could sentence the defendant to a maximum 36-year stint behind bars. Each count of child neglect carries a maximum of 15 years in prison. The false imprisonment charge carries a maximum 6-year sentence.
A perfunctory reading of the charges established that Koch “for reasons other than poverty” negligently endangered the physical, mental, and emotional health of two children — identified as CJJ and DMJ — between July 13, 2022, and July 13, 2023, causing emotional damage.
Milwaukee Police Department Det. James Hunter, in a previous hearing, described the state of affairs inside the house as “a really terrible hoarding situation” replete with the “smell of urine and feces on a daily basis.” The children never bathed, the detective added.
Earlier this summer, Milwaukee Police Department District 3 Officers responded to numerous 911 calls about two boys at a residence on South 71st Street — later determined to be 7 and 9 years old — who were naked, running through South 71st Street, covered in blood, feces, bruises, and red marks. One caller told police a woman “yanked” one of the boys back inside.
“I’m not going to ever forget the way they looked when they came running out of that house — never forget that,” neighbor Chris Eder, who called 911, told Milwaukee ABC affiliate WISN. “The look on their faces was pure bewilderment. They were just looking all around. They could not — I don’t think they’d ever been outside before.”
During a Mirandized interview with police, Koch allegedly vacillated on various points including by claiming that her children were home-schooled — but lacked a proper curriculum. She also allegedly said she didn’t want her boys to “lose the stability” they have — but admitted she “f–––––– up” and that they deserve better.
As for the educational state of her children, the boys’ mother allegedly said one of them could trace letters and read “small words” while another was “learning how to put sentences together in proper form.” She also told police they use “educational apps” on their tablets and that she recently purchased Hooked on Phonics.
“It’s really terrible; it’s like something out of a horror movie,” Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Mallory Davis previously said. “The children were essentially confined to their room for much of their lives. And the door had a latch on the outside and the windows were boarded shut. I have finally been able to view videos and photographs of the home and I can tell you that almost every inch of their walls was covered in human feces.”
The judge and the attorneys agreed to set Koch’s sentencing for Feb. 8 at 9 a.m.
Koch’s boyfriend, Joel Manke, 38, stands accused of two counts each of chronic neglect of a child, and false imprisonment over the boys’ treatment. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in July.
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