A Wisconsin mother has pleaded guilty to child neglect charges, following her arrest four months ago when authorities discovered that she had been keeping her two young sons confined in a room filled with filth, feces, and vermin.
In a Milwaukee courtroom on Thursday, Katie Koch pleaded guilty to two felony counts. The charges she faced were chronic neglect of a child and felony false imprisonment.
The sentencing hearing for her is scheduled for February 8, 2024.
Koch and her boyfriend, Joel Manke, were taken into custody outside their residence in the Bluemound Heights neighborhood on July 13. This followed reports from concerned neighbors who witnessed Koch’s two sons, aged 7 and 9, running outside naked and covered in dirt.
Upon investigation, the police entered the residence to find an abundance of garbage, stacked in piles that reached a height of five feet.
The boys’ bedroom was extremely dirty, and it seemed like the windows had been boarded up. Shockingly, there was a latch on the outside of the room, which the police later discovered was used by Koch to lock them inside during the night.
Koch insisted on her innocence for two out of six charges during a previous hearing, stating that they were both misdemeanors.
Manke had previously entered a plea of not guilty to two felony charges. These charges include chronic neglect of a child and false imprisonment.
On Wednesday, the court announced that three of Koch’s charges were dismissed as a result of negotiations between her legal team and the District Attorney’s office.
The charges filed against him now include an extra felony charge for false imprisonment, along with two misdemeanor charges for neglecting a child.
The Messenger’s request for comment on Thursday went unanswered by the Milwaukee District Attorney.
The Messenger reached out to Koch’s attorney, Brett Lee Copeland, for comment this week, but he did not respond.
Neighbors have come forward to share their observations of the unusual behavior exhibited by the couple throughout the years.
According to previous statements made by neighbor Rick Eder, the windows of the property were concealed and protected with boards, sheets, and tarps, preventing any view from the outside.
While driving home, Eder and his wife, Christine, were the ones who initially noticed the boys running outside. The boys had managed to escape through a broken window on July 13.
“They dashed right in front of us,” he reminisced. “They were incredibly filthy, making us mistakenly believe that they were in Halloween attire. Their hair seemed like long wigs, and their bodies bore marks as if they had been lashed with a belt. Without hesitation, I turned to my wife and firmly stated, ‘Those are not costumes.'”
“It was absolutely shocking,” he continued, his voice filled with a mix of disbelief and horror. “The scene before my eyes was simply unbearable.”
Eder was completely unaware that Koch had children, so he was taken aback when she revealed their existence and insisted that the boys be brought back to their home.
According to a 72-page police report obtained by The Messenger, Michael Saladin, another resident, stated during an interview with detectives that he had initially seen the boys when Koch moved into Manke’s home three years prior.
But he hadn’t laid eyes on them outdoors since that time.
According to police reports, several neighbors have mentioned witnessing an unusual behavior by Mr. Manke. One neighbor claimed to have seen him mowing his lawn late at night, with the aid of a headlamp. Another neighbor found it peculiar that the couple was able to fill two large garbage containers every week and expressed confusion about how they managed to accumulate such a large amount of waste.
Koch has been involved in various criminal activities since 2011, including armed robbery, retail theft, and breaking into a locked coin box.
In January 2014, a Milwaukee court had previously mandated her to undergo a mental health evaluation. Additionally, she was required to actively seek suitable treatment and enroll in vocational or educational courses.
Koch, despite these directives, continued to encounter legal troubles, including drug-related charges. Her most recent offense occurred in May 2018 when she was involved in a misdemeanor hit-and-run incident.