GREEN BAY – A Wrightstown woman will spend nine months in jail for what a physician called a “most egregious example of child starvation and torture.”
Kimberly Fahrenkrug, 39, was sentenced to jail, with 82 days credit for time already served, and five years probation, in connection to the treatment of her 5-year-old adopted son. At one point, the boy weighed just 29 pounds, according to court documents.
Fahrenkrug and her husband, Bradley Fahrenkrug, 41, were arrested in July after their two biological children told investigators their adopted brother was physically restrained and was only allowed to have small amounts of food, mostly soup, while they could eat and do as they pleased.
Kimberly Fahrenkrug pleaded no contest to felony child neglect. Four other charges against her were dropped under a plea agreement. Bradley Fahrenkrug is scheduled to be sentenced under a similar agreement on June 25.
The boy was removed from the Fahrenkrugs’ home and is living with a foster family.
Kimberly Fahrenkrug’s defense attorney, Rick Meier, argued the child suffers from mental, emotional and social issues and would often throw tantrums and refuse to eat. He said the couple met with a social worker who advised them the adoption might “not be working out,” but they refused to reconsider the adoption because they love the boy.
Barbara Knox, a physician and child abuse expert at Children’s Hospital, told Brown County Circuit Court Judge John Zakowski the boy’s weight put him at serious risk for heart failure and compared the child’s metabolic state to that of those starved in concentration camps.
Knox also told the court of interactions between Kimberly Fahrenkrug and hospital staff prior to the couple’s arrest in which she became angry with hospital staff who fed the child after he was hospitalized for malnutrition.
Prosecutor Wendy Lemkuil said the boy is now healthy and has experienced few problems when it comes to eating and behaving.
The couple’s biological children also told investigators the boy was forced to wear a helmet, a compression vest, flippers and a backpack filled with weights, and was forced to “march” and perform other exercises.
Meier argued the defense would have been able to prove that the backpack, helmet, vest and flippers were measures recommended by experts to both strengthen the boy’s legs and reduce out-of-control behavior.
Fahrenkrug cried as she told Zakowski of her history as a foster parent. She said over the last decade she and her husband provided a home for 13 foster children, but that when they decided to adopt their son they encountered problems like never before.
“We are just regular people and we were doing our best with the situation at hand,” she said sobbing. “We continued to try and help him and wanted to give him our best but that made his problems worse. The last thing we ever wanted to do is hurt him.”
Zakowski during sentencing said he believes Fahrenkrug has a good character, but singling out the child for mistreatment and failed to meet the most basic responsibility of any parent — to provide a child with food.
“Something went drastically wrong here,” he said. “That boy suffered.”