WALWORTH COUNTY -- A Walworth County couple accused of abusing their adopted children plead not guilty in court Wednesday, September 19th.
Kathleen O’Brien and her husband, Martin O’Brien have been charged with a total of 17 counts, including 10 felony charges of abuse, spanning from 2004 to 2011. Prosecutors say the victims currently range in age from 12 to 19 years old.
Investigators say the O’Briens developed a system of punishment for some of their children, including spanking with a belt or stick as many times as their age.
Court documents show sometimes the children were slapped in the face as many times as their age.
However, over and over again, the victims said the penalties were directed toward a specific part of the family — alleging it was the adopted children who were disciplined differently.
In one case, investigators say a child argued with Kathleen O’Brien. Court documents say Martin O’Brien and a biological child restrained the victim, while naked. Prosecutors say Kathleen O’Brien kicked him in the groin and later, sprayed him in the face with pepper spray.
The alleged punishments also included the victims taking their shoes off in the snow, standing naked on the back porch or in the dog’s yard with feces for hours.
Sometimes, when one adopted child was punished, prosecutors say all of the adopted children were penalized.
The allegations are shocking to the couple’s neighbors.
“That’s disgusting. I can’t imagine anyone would do that,” one neighbor said.
By court order, none of the children are living at the O’Brien’s home at this time.
The two will stand trial in the case.