U.S. NewsCrime


Police: Neglected children escape 'terrible hoarding' house

Katie Koch, 34, and her boyfriend, Joel Manke, 38, face a total of 10 felony charges for chronic neglect of a child and false imprisonment.
The Milwaukee home where the children were staying.
Posted at 12:55 PM, Jul 20, 2023

A mother and her boyfriend face several felony charges after two children were found roaming the streets of Milwaukee without any clothes on, according to a criminal complaint.

Katie Koch, 34, and her boyfriend, Joel Manke, 38, face a total of 10 felony charges for chronic neglect of a child and false imprisonment.

The criminal complaint says that on July 13, neighbors spotted two naked children on the street in their neighborhood.

"It looked like they were wearing wigs," Rick Eder said. "When I got a closer look at them, I looked at my wife and tell her, that’s not costumes. It looked like they were hit with a belt. That was more terrifying than anything, seeing a child like that."

The children, both under the age of 10, according to the criminal complaint, had broken a window in the house to escape. The complaint states that the children were covered in lacerations to their backs, shoulders, and lower backs and were not clothed. A person who called 911 said it looked like they had bruises and red marks on their thighs.

As neighbors tried to approach the children to help, Eder said the older child would run away and the younger would plug their ears with their fingers and scream.

"It looked like they haven’t had a bath in a long time," Eder said. "The way their hair was, you can tell it wasn’t washed or even cut in a long time. Very disturbing."

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Police arrived and made contact with Koch. The complaint states that she walked officers through the home, which police described as a "terrible hoarding situation."

Trash was piled in a number of rooms, and officers noted a strong scent of urine and feces. As officers continued through the home, the scent reportedly got stronger as they neared the room the children were staying in. The complaint said the room had a lock on the outside of the door.

When police entered the room, the complaint says the walls were covered in feces. Koch claimed the substance on the walls of the room was "clay, paint, and chocolate," according to the criminal complaint.

Koch's boyfriend reportedly told police that the children had not been to a medical provider or school for more than three years.

During an interview with police, Koch said she "homeschools" the children. She said they got a new Hooked on Phonics workbook for the children, and they used "educational apps" on their tablets.

Koch told police the younger child could not write but could trace letters and read small words. While the older child was "learning how to put sentences together in proper form."

Several neighbors told the Scripps News Milwaukee that they had never seen children at the house.

Koch was arrested and remains in jail. Manke has been released from jail on a $6,500 cash bond.

The children are reportedly now in protective custody.

This story was originally published by Rebecca Klopf and Mary Jo Ola at Scripps News Milwaukee.