Breaking News Bar
updated: 6/19/2013 10:03 AM

Ohio woman accuses 3 of holding her captive

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • A "Private Property No Trespassing" sign greets visitors Tuesday June 18, 2013, at this three-apartment building in Ashland, Ohio, which a neighbor says was home to at least one of the three suspects charged with enslaving a mentally disabled woman and her child.

      A "Private Property No Trespassing" sign greets visitors Tuesday June 18, 2013, at this three-apartment building in Ashland, Ohio, which a neighbor says was home to at least one of the three suspects charged with enslaving a mentally disabled woman and her child.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

ASHLAND, Ohio -- A woman told authorities she was held captive for more than a year by three people who forced her to do housework, raided her bank account and menaced her with snakes and pit bulls.

But an attorney for one of the suspects and the alleged captor's mother said the mentally impaired woman was given a place to stay because she and her young daughter had no home and that the woman was free to move in an out whenever she wanted.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

Authorities announced federal charges Tuesday against the three people the woman lived with in a blue-collar neighborhood in Ashland, about 65 miles southwest of Cleveland. Beginning in early 2011, they forced the mother to cooperate with them by threats and physical abuse, they said.

The woman and her daughter were freed in October after police investigated an abuse allegation one of the suspects made against her, authorities said, and they are doing well.

"The victim in this case is slowly recovering," U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach said.

Jordie Callahan, 26, Jessica Hunt, 31, and Daniel J. "DJ" Brown, 33, were charged with forced labor. Callahan also was charged with tampering with a witness in the investigation.

The suspects had an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Cleveland and were ordered jailed until a bond hearing on Monday.

Police first got involved when the woman was charged with shoplifting a candy bar and asked to be jailed because the three suspects "had been mean to her," said Ashland police Lt. Joel Icenhour.

It wasn't clear whether she had staged the candy bar theft to get police help.

Police checking into her "mean" claim went to the apartment after one of the suspects said it was the woman who was abusive. Authorities said the allegation was a ruse complete with a video staged by the suspects. They said the suspects forced the woman to act as if she were mistreating her child.

The 29-year-old woman was forced to do housework under the threat of harm to her and her child by her captors' pet python or pit bulls, authorities allege, and a menagerie of snakes was put in the terrified 5-year-old's face until she cried.

On several occasions, according to an FBI affidavit, the suspects injured the woman and ordered her to go to an emergency room for pain medication they would then take for themselves.

Andrew Hyde, who represented Callahan on related state kidnapping charges dismissed Tuesday as the federal case was announced, called the charges ludicrous and said the woman at the center of the alleged forced-labor plot moved in and out as she pleased.

"There was never any forced labor, any forced cohabitation. She was never forced to do anything. She used this story to get out of trouble she was in" with regard to a child-abuse allegation, Hyde said.

Hyde said county social service workers placed the girl with her mother when the woman was living with the three suspects.

Callahan's mother, Becky Callahan of Ashland, said in a phone interview 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 court lawyer for Callahan declined comment. A second defense attorney, Ed Bryan, said Hunt will plead not guilty and said there are credibility issues with the mother.

There was no immediate response to phone and email messages left for the attorney representing Brown.

According to an FBI affidavit, the mother and child were denied food at times or given leftovers; on one occasion when they hadn't eaten all day, the mother was given a plate of food and ordered to feed a pet dog.

The trio also looted the woman's bank account and public assistance, according to the affidavit.

The woman told investigators the trio learned of her plan to try to escape and punished her by shaving her hair into a Mohawk and using a marker to write "slut," "tramp" and "whore" on her face and chest. She was forced to clean up the hair without a broom or dust pan, according to the affidavit.

The woman was forced to do house work and shop for her captors and clean up after their pets, authorities said.

The three kept the mother and daughter under surveillance with a baby monitor, according to the affidavit, and at one point, the woman was lured back with ice cream.

"They treated her with such cruelty that it is hard to comprehend," Dettelbach said. "They tried to take away her human dignity."

Defense attorney Hyde said police told the woman they would help if she felt she had been framed with an incriminating video. According to Hyde, she bought that argument and made up the enslavement allegation.

"I think the feds just failed to fully investigate this before they jumped to some conclusions," Hyde said.

A woman in the Ashland neighborhood said Tuesday she was surprised by the allegations, saying that Callahan sometimes helped her husband with yard work and other chores and that she never saw signs someone was being held captive in the house.

Tara Williams, 51, said she occasionally saw Callahan walking down an alley with a large yellow-and-white snake draped around his neck but never saw him threaten anyone with it. She said three pit bulls also lived in the apartment, along with a potbellied pig that once got loose.

The white, two-story house of three apartments, including the defendants' apartment, is set back from the road with a "no trespassing" sign near the front.

Williams said she occasionally saw the presumed victim walking by quickly and sometimes underdressed for cold weather. The woman never spoke or looked at others, Williams said. Williams never saw a child, she said.

Like many in Ashland and around Ohio, Williams said she couldn't help but think of the parallels to the case in Cleveland a little more than a month ago, in which three women were freed from a house 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.

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.