UK & World News

  • 19 June 2013, 14:21

Woman And Child 'Used As Slaves' In Ohio

A mentally disabled woman and her child were allegedly kept as slaves by three people who threatened them with snakes and a pit bull dog.

The woman and child, who the Federal Bureau of Investigation have not named, were held for many months in a basement in Ashland, Ohio.

Ashland is just 60 miles south of Cleveland, where three missing women who had themselves allegedly been held captive were discovered recently.

The FBI, who issued an indictment against the Ashland woman's alleged captors, said they threatened and abused her, and threatened the child with snakes.

Later, they allegedly forced the woman and child to sleep in a padlocked room with a "large iguana".

The woman finally escaped by stealing sweets from a shop, prompting police to arrest her.

She told officers she would rather go to jail than go home as her housemates "were mean to her".

Her alleged tormentors have been arrested on human trafficking charges.

Jordie Callahan, 26, Jessica Hunt, aged 31, and 33-year-old Daniel Brown were detained on Tuesday and charged by the FBI with forced labour.

Callahan was also charged with an additional count of tampering with a witness. Callahan and Hunt are said to be in a relationship.

Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Cleveland Office, said: "These defendants violated the victim's most basic civil right, freedom, by exploiting her most basic instinct, the protection of her child.

"The FBI continues to aggressively pursue and bring to justice those individuals who abuse and harm innocent members of our community."

The FBI said the alleged 'slavery' began in May 2011 and continued until October 2012, when the woman was arrested by police.

They identified the woman only as S.E.

An FBI statement, outlining an affidavit which contained the allegations, said: "Callahan and Hunt forced S.E. to clean the house, do laundry, walk to the store to do their shopping, and care for their numerous pit bulls and reptiles.

"S.E. was timed when she went to the store and was not allowed to bring her child with her.

"At various points, Callahan threatened S.E. with a gun. S.E. and her child initially were forced to sleep on a cement floor in the basement with no mattress.

"Later, they were moved to a room upstairs, again with no bed or mattress.

"Callahan and Hunt also repeatedly taunted and threatened S.E. and (her child) with injury from the couple's snakes, including a poisonous coral snake, a ball python, and a Burmese python that weighed 130 pounds."

The affidavit said the three slammed a rock into the woman's hand on one occasion and injured her back on another so she could get medication for the pain, which they then used.

When she fled, one of those who she lived with alleged that the woman had abused the child herself. Police investigated, but have taken no further action.

Andrew Hyde, who has represented Callahan, called the charges against his client ludicrous and said the woman moved in and out as she pleased.

Mr Hyde said: "There was never any forced labour, any forced co-habitation. She was never forced to do anything."

He said: "She used this story to get out of trouble she was in," referring to the abuse she allegedly carried out on her child.

Mr Hyde accused federal investigators of not looking at all the evidence before jumping to conclusions.

Callahan's mother, Becky Callahan of Ashland, told the Associated Press that the allegations were "all lies."

She said that the alleged victim was friends with her son and Hunt, her son's girlfriend, and that they tried to help the woman out by offering her a place to live because she didn't have a home.

A federal defence attorney for Hunt, Ed Bryan, said his client will plead not guilty and said there were credibility issues with the mother.

A little more than a month ago, three women were freed from a house in Cleveland, Ohio where a man allegedly imprisoned them for a decade, raping them during that time and fathering a child with one of them.

Ariel Castro has pleaded not guilty to more than 300 counts against him, which include kidnapping, rape and felonious assault.