Seymour father, stepmother face neglect
charges, accused of locking kids in room,
limiting bathroom access
SEYMOUR. WI – The parents of children who told police they weren’t allowed to leave their bedroom for hours at a time or use the bathroom more than three times a day were charged with felony neglect.
The children, a 12-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl, who lived in a house with their father, stepmother and siblings in Seymour, also said they weren’t fed anything other than peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in Outagamie County Circuit Court.
The windows in their bedroom were screwed shut and the door was equipped with an alarm that went off if it was opened, and the rest of the house was monitored by security cameras, the complaint says, and both children were punished if they tried to leave.
Gregory Hietpas, 33, and Elizabeth Hietpas, 33, both of Seymour, are each charged with two counts of chronic neglect of a child, a felony with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and five years of extended supervision.
A police officer for the Seymour Police Department spoke with both children at school. The 12-year-old boy was “very soft spoken” and “appeared very tired and sounded depressed” as he spoke, the complaint says.
The boy told the officer he and his sister share a bedroom, where he is forced to sleep on the floor without a blanket or pillow and is only allowed to use the bathroom three times a day.
“If he has to use the bathroom more than that, he has to go inside his bedroom,” sometimes “in a bucket or on the floor,” the complaint says. He also told the officer he is only given five minutes to take a bath and the door to the bathroom has to stay open.
The other children in the house are allowed out of their rooms and can leave the house, but he and his older sister are forced to stay in their bedroom, “unless they need to take the dogs outside or do chores,” the complaint says.
The boy described an incident in which he left his bedroom and “walked around the city,” the complaint says, and when he was found and returned home, his father, Gregory Hietpas, “screamed at him, hit him and threw him across the room.”
He also described how his stepmother, Elizabeth Hietpas, used the clock on the oven to time the five minutes given to him and his sister to make and eat their meals.
“When asked the last time he was given something other than a peanut butter sandwich to eat, he could not remember,” the complaint says.
The girl later told an interviewer at a child advocacy center that the alarm was placed on the door because they would sneak out and take food from the refrigerator, which she said her parents considered stealing, the complaint says.
When he was punished, the boy said he was forced to carry a weight over his head “and is not allowed to let it rest on his head or chest” and “if he lowered it, he has to start over,” the complaint says. His sister described an incident in which the boy dropped a weight on his head and injured himself.
Both children also described being forced to write sentences hundreds of times as punishment for not listening to their parents.
The girl, who was also interviewed at school, told the officer that she and her brother are not allowed around the other children because “her parents think they are bad influences,” the complaint says.
The girl also said “there are days that she does not feel safe going home,” the complaint says, and that her father “hurts her when he is mad or frustrated.” She also described days on weekends when she and her brother were forced to stand in their bedroom from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
When a police officer visited the house on Dec. 4, 2018, he found at least two large loaves of bread and large container of peanut butter, and saw the alarm attached to the bedroom door, the complaint says.
The officer asked whether the boy was able to use the bathroom at night, the complaint says, and Elizabeth Hietpas told him “no, not right now,” and explained that the boy runs off and “we don’t know what else to do.”
When asked why they hadn’t told anyone what was happening, the girl said “they were afraid of getting in trouble,” the complaint says, adding that “it is never good at home” and “it is painful to have to deal with it all of the time.”
The boy told the interviewer that when other people are around, his parents will be nice to him and his sister and “act like nothing is going on.”
When Elizabeth Hietpas was interviewed by police, she denied the two children weren’t allowed to use the bathroom when they wanted, the complaint says. She also claimed they had stopped using weights as a punishment after the boy hurt himself. But when asked about her honesty during the interview, Hietpas said she didn’t want talk more about the issues and accused an officer of “backing her into a corner.”
Gregory Hietpas told police that the boy and girl were forced to sleep in the same room because the two children would intentionally go to the bathroom in their pants, the complaint says, so they decided to put them in the same bedroom “so only one room was destroyed and not the whole house.”
Hietpas said both children could go to the bathroom whenever they wanted during the day, but not at night, when the alarm on their door is activated, the complaint says.
He also told police that when things started to “go south” at his house, he began to “tune things out and found things to do to get out of the house.”