The proverbial wicked stepmother of fairy tales

Jennings Brian Critchfield and Venus Critchfield were the heads of a blended family of 6 children who are now ages 11 to 16 years of age. Four of the children that are children of the couple and two of the children are children from a previous relationship of Critchfield’s. Note I said ‘were’ as in past tense. Fortunately they will no longer be in a position to parent for a while.

In Oct. 2004, Jennings Brian Critchfield was sentenced to 4 to 20 years in prison for the child abuse of his children. (current articles say 3 to 15 years).

Wednesday Venus Critchfield, 35, was sentenced for her  guilty plea to felony neglect with injury of the same children. Other charges had been filed against Venus Critchfield, but they were dismissed with the plea deal.

Some of those children testified in court as to the nature of the abuse at Venus Critchfield’s hands. The abuse reportedly began about 1997, and was called “chronic, repeated and escalating,” but the charges that were being prosecuted were for the abuse that occurred between January of 2001 and Febuary of 2002.

Testimony from some of the children outlined some of what they had been through. They reported being beaten on their feet with boards, hooks and ropes were used to force them to stand for long periods of time. And reportedly they were forced to gorge themselves on food and drink until they vomited. They were then forced to eat and “wallow” in the vomit.

The judge told Venus Critchfield “You are like the proverbial wicked stepmother of fairy tales,” “You should never have been a mother; you are the antithesis of everything that is a mother.” And he sentenced her to the maximum penalty available for the charges she pled to- 2 to 6 years.

These children made it out of this home. But what cost will they pay for the abuse they suffered there?

Note the age range of the children ages 11 to 16. The abuse is reported to have been occurring since 1997, beginning with the stepchildren and eventually affecting all of the children. By my calculations the age range of the children when the abuse occurred would have been 2 to 7 years of age. 9 years of “chronic, repeating, and escalating abuse.

He got 3 to 15 years, she got 2 to 6. The children- they lost their childhood, and got a lifetime of bad memories.

A thank you to Lilo for the tip on this one.



  1. Lilo said,

    September 15, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    In school, we were given a bag of flour for a week. We carried it around with us 24/7. Another friend of mine had an egg that she had to tote around for a week. Another a baby doll that would cry, for no reason- at any given time. If we were seen without our “babies” we flunked. If our babies were dirty, we flunked. If our babies broke, we flunked. If we were caught behaving badly around our babies, we flunked. If we didn’t treat our “babies” as if they were real children with real feeling and needs, we flunked. Teachers, parents, even our friends were on the lookout for that one person that would mess up- just to be able to turn them in.
    9 years of abuse… where were the family and friends in this case?
    2 to 6 years is not justice, even 3 to 15 falls short of it.

  2. Lori said,

    September 18, 2006 at 9:32 pm

    I am replying to both the article as well as the comment to the article – I am the Aunt of the “Step Children” in this horrid “un”fairy tale and I can tell you that this story began with the murder of the childrens mother and they were put into the hands of an abuse father who moved them away from all of their friends and family and would abuse them anytime they asked to speak or see any of their mothers family (I am her sister). We tried to get to the children unfortunately we did not know where they were and what was going and if we had we would have done anything in our powers to help them. Once we found them and knew what was happening social services in Grafton, WV would not let any of us have any contact with the children because of the lawsuit. Before the death of their mother they were in her care (GOOD CARE) and they were surrounded by all of their maternal family and friends. Now we have no contact with them because the Social workers believe that it is detrimental to their emotional wellbeing not to have contact with their murdered mothers family – For what reason we have no idea. Instead they have been placed in the hands of the abusive fathers family. Tell me where the justice in that? All WE ever gave those babies were love and care. In my opion – Knowing this man for all the years that I have and knowing the person that he is I don’t think he should ever see the light of day again and anyone that would go along with him and his barbaric behavior should be forever punished as well.

  3. September 18, 2006 at 9:59 pm

    Lori, I am sorry for what has happened in your family. I agree that neither of these people should ever again see the light of day. There is no excuse for treating children in this way.
    Have you tried getting an attorney to try to intervene in with children’s services? Also you might check to see if your state has “grandparent” laws allowing them to sue for visitation rights with the children. I hope you will keep up the fight to get contact with the children.
    You mentioned that their mother was murdered. Do you mind telling me what happened to her?

  4. Penny said,

    November 19, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    Lori…I know this was posted a little over a year ago…but I must send you a “heart felt hug” nothing hurts more then to see children suffer and the feeling of helplessness… BUT I want you to know there is hope for those chidren… I was abused a child over 40 years ago by my mother’s boyfriend…locked in a dark shed outside at night, forced to eat my own vomit, beaten with a belt ect… I was “saved ” by my alcoholic father, raised by my unbalanced stepmother, I got pregnant and let home at 15, and I kept my son, I have now been married for 26 years to a wonderful man , we have raised my sisters childern, I am going to be a Gramma soon, my son is my sunshine, my sisters children are children from my heart, I manage a business and I am HAPPY…all the suffering I went through made me who I am today…a compassionate person who holds her head up and is not afraid to tell my story to anyone who I think it can HELP… I am no longer a victims but a survior …

  5. November 20, 2007 at 3:49 am

    Lori, to me a victim is one who remains in a situation or if after leaving the situation continues to deny/excuse the abuse. A survivor leaves the situation and quits hiding the abuse, and goes on with his/her life. So indeed you do meet ‘my’ definition of a survivor. I am glad that you were able to get past what happened to you and that you are now happy in your life. Congratulations for your accomplishment. And happy Gramma time!

  6. Adnos said,

    August 29, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Hi! My name is Adnos from the Philippines. I am a victim of child abuse and I am writing an allegoric chronicle of how it all went. I hope someone could help me get over the nightmare that Grown-ups inflicted on me.

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