Milwaukee child neglect, kids found naked, bloody: complaint

A Milwaukee man and woman face multiple charges, accused of neglecting two children, ages 7 and 9. 

Police responded to the neighborhood near 71st and Stevenson on Thursday, July 13, where they learned from neighbors that two kids were walking around naked with blood on them. 

"I will never forget the look on those boys’ faces," said Christine Eder, neighbor. "The only word that comes to mind -- bewildered."

Eder and her husband were the first to spot the children, naked, filthy and wandering not far from State Fair Park.

71st and Stevenson

"That’s when you notice that something was wrong," said Eder. "They had no clothes on. Their hair, it hadn’t been brushed."

When they tried to talk with the children, they were met with confusion.

"In my opinion, they had never been outside before," said Eder. "They couldn’t believe what they were looking at."

The couple called 911 as Katie Koch, 34, came running down the street.

"The way she was acting, it just didn't seem right," said Cindy Peterson, neighbor.

She went up to Cindy and Jessica Peterson's home. They said she was trying to get inside. When they told her the kids weren't there, her words became more disturbing.

"Then it was like, she was saying she wanted one of my kids," said Peterson.

"It was horrible," said Eder.

Prosecutors say police made contact with Koch, who was on the phone with a man, asking if he was "almost home, so you can help explain what's going on."

Prosecutors say the home was uninhabitable, with police describing a "terrible hoarding situation."

One child, age 7, was found with red marks on his body. A criminal complaint says Koch told police both of the children, 7 and 9, had broken a window and ran away, but police didn't find lacerations indicative of cuts from broken glass. However, the complaint says one neighbor told investigators he saw the kids break the window and run from the home.

While police were at the house, Koch denied abusing the kids, grabbing clothing for them and telling officers, "I'm so sorry. I'm so afraid."

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Police found trash, garbage and the smell of urine and feces throughout the home. The complaint says there was feces smeared on the walls in the children's room and a latch on the outside of their door. Koch said it was not "just feces" but "clay, paint and chocolate," the complaint says.

The complaint says Joel Manke, 38, arrived shortly thereafter. Prosecutors say he admitted to putting boards on the windows in the kids' room "to keep the children from bothering the nosey neighbor" and a latch on their door "to lock the kids in the room overnight to keep them from wandering due to their autism." He said the children did not attend school or see a doctor during the time he had known them.

Katie Koch

According to prosecutors, Koch said she "home schools" the children, describing "Hooked on Phonics workbooks" and "educational apps" on their tablets but admitting she didn't have a proper curriculum for them. She said the 7-year-old cannot write but can trace letters and read "small words." She said the 9-year-old was learning how to put sentences together.

Manke added that he "knew how the children were living was not right, but he had to pick his battles with Koch to avoid arguments," the complaint says.

According to prosecutors, one neighbor told police he had lived in his home for over 30 years and had never seen a child at the home where Koch and Manke lived.

Koch admitted the home was not habitable and the children "deserved better," the complaint says. Prosecutors added that she wrote a three-page apology letter to the children.

Katie Koch, Joel Manke

Koch is charged with two counts of chronic neglect of a child, two counts of false imprisonment and two counts of neglecting a child.

Manke is charged with two counts of chronic neglect of a child and two counts of false imprisonment.

Both made their initial court appearances Monday, July 17. Cash bond was set at $30,000 for Koch and $6,500 for Manke.