December 22, 2016 08:13 AM
Two parents in Fillmore County could face serious prison time and possibly lose their parental rights. It comes after officers in Ostrander found their 5-year-old daughter allegedly beaten and locked away in their home. In the criminal complaint, the parents admit to hurting their child.
On Wednesday, both parents pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against them.
Together they face a total of 18 charges including imprisonment, past pattern of child abuse, and assault.
"We just had a really bad feeling," said family friend Haley Vold. Her daughters babysat the children involved in this case often. "It just didn't feel right and it just ... it was scary."
It was Vold's November phone call to Fillmore County Social Services that opened a new case on parents Angela Stewart and Ryan Rechtzigel.
Together, they face more than a dozen felony charges regarding the neglect and abuse of their children, especially their 5-year-old daughter.
"We were in a wedding of theirs," Vold said. "They had gotten married and (the child) wasn't there then we had begun to become very concerned."
Days after the couple's wedding, Rechtzigel violated his parole, which led parole agents and the Ostrander Chief of Police to conduct a search for methamphetamine inside the family's Ostrander home.
According to court documents, Stewart had pulled their 5-year-old daughter out of school and no one had seen her for "approximately 30 days."
"We hadn't seen her and we were really concerned," Vold said.
Documents continue to show the chief found the little girl upstairs behind a "piece of plywood" secured on the outside by "two hooks." She was "only given one meal a day and was forced to eat things other than food," including feces.
She was ultimately found with "bruises, scratches and cigarette burns" on her body.
Investigators say they uncovered videos and text messages on the couple's phone detailing ways to torture their daughter.
"I wouldn't have thought this," Vold said. "I kind of had different times when I thought things weren't right but they were all the way in Ostrander and we had no idea."
The two parents were silent in court Wednesday as their attorneys made their cases for what will and won't be admissible as evidence in the criminal case.
The three children who lived with them are now in foster care.
"They have no say in this," Vold said. "It's pretty much everyone else's say what happens to them and we just hope they get justice. Because they deserve it. They deserve a family that will give them all the love in the world."
A trial regarding the possible termination of parental rights for both parents is scheduled to start in January.
The couple has a lengthy history with child protection that includes an additional two prior cases in Minnesota just in the past year, and one case in Arizona which resulted in the termination of their parental rights of a fourth child.
Updated: December 22, 2016 08:13 AM
Created: December 21, 2016 08:50 PM
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