**TO REPORT SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE CALL THE MILWAUKEE POLICE NON-EMERGENCY LINE 414-933-4444, YOU CAN DO SO ANONYMOUSLY IF YOU WISH. IF IT'S AN EMERGENCY DIAL 9-1-1. YOU CAN ALSO CONTACT DCF AT 414-220-7233.**
WEST ALLIS, Wis. — Court records and police transcripts compiled by the I-Team over the last eight months show a history of alleged abusive behavior committed by the mother accused in the death of her 6-year-old son, who was found malnourished and beaten in a West Allis home last September.
Tasha Rockow is charged with repeated physical abuse of a child causing death and two additional felonies after the death of her 6-year-old son Hank Brown-Rockow.
Family friends tell the I-Team that Brown-Rockow, who they refer to as Asher, spent most of his life with his biological father, Beau Brown. Rockow gained custody only after Brown's death, despite a lengthy criminal history.
It started before Brown-Rockow was born. In 2014, Rockow was charged and convicted of child neglect and battery of a peace officer in Fond du Lac, among other charges, and was sentenced to a year in jail. According to that complaint, she grabbed one of her older children and threatened to hurt them if police touched her.
Three years later in 2017, she was charged with disorderly conduct, also in Fond du Lac, at her older child's school. That complaint states she caused enough of a scene that the school instituted a soft lock-down to protect the students.
She was sentenced to 15 days in jail for that incident. According to online court records, Rockow has an additional drug-related felony conviction in Columbia County.
Rockow also went to family court to determine custody of Brown-Rockow. A judge gave sole custody to the father Brown, saying it was in the best interest of the child, according to online court records.
During that time, family friends Christine and Tayten Last and Tysun Krahn tell the I-Team they watched the father and son grow together.
"He was destined to be a dad," Christine said. "He loved his kid(s)."
The Last family said after the interview Brown had two additional children as well.
"Beau was like my dad," Krahn said. "My dad passed away too and when my dad was here, he wasn’t very in my life. I spent Father's Days and birthdays and everything with Beau."
But in May of 2020, the father, Brown, died suddenly in a car crash. For about a week after, he spent a lot of time with the Last family.
"Those were the two closest people in my life," Tayten said. "It just sucks now that they’re gone."
Until the family received a call from Brown-Rockow's grandfather, telling them he heard from the police saying they needed to return the child to Rockow, despite the prior custody hearings.
Brown-Rockow spent the rest of his life with his mother. According to West Allis Police investigative materials, officers interviewed Rockow's half-sister, who lived in the upper unit of the duplex where Rockow lived with the 6-year-old and her other children. We did not make contact with the half-sister, so we are not naming her at this time.
She described to police a punishment Rockow allegedly called "on the wall," where he would stand in the hallway with his palms pressed against the wall for up to 30 minutes at a time. According to the transcripts, Brown-Rockow wasn't allowed on the furniture, and Rockow often punished him by force-feeding him hot sauce.
The half-sister also witnessed Rockow denying the boy food, according to the police records. She told officers she considered calling the Department of Children and Families to report the abuse, but was, "...afraid of the backlash from Tasha [Rockow]."
To learn more about child maltreatment and the systems in place to combat these crimes, the I-Team spoke to the CEO of Sojourner Family Peace Center, Carmen Pitre. She spoke to the overall issue, not this specific case.
"Should we expect our systems to work? Absolutely," Pitre said. "But systems are made up of people, which again gets back to this point of, okay we need to educate ourselves, we have to have robust policies, we have to create rapport and trust with communities."
She said those systems can be effective, but it's not always easy to navigate, especially during a pandemic.
"The world shut down, kids were staying at home, so one of the results was a steep decline in referrals," Pitre said.
Those referrals for suspected child abuse are made by mandatory reporters like teachers and social workers, who had significantly less contact with children at the height of the pandemic.
Back to the case of Brown-Rockow, the family friends tell us they felt helpless, and according to the investigative materials, those who could report the alleged abuse, didn't. The family friends tell us they come to each one of Rockow's court appearances.
"This is so wrong and so many people would have loved to have taken him," Christine said. "And given him the best life that he deserved."
The I-Team knocked on the door of the half-sister interviewed by police and left a written message. We did not hear back.
Last week, the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office added the repeated physical abuse of a child charge to the other two felony charges filed last fall.
She has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and her trial is scheduled to start in August.