ASHLAND, Ohio - Three Ohio residents held a cognitively disabled woman and her child against her will for more than two years and forced her to perform manual labor for them, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
The disabled woman and her child were beaten and threatened with large snakes, forcing them to sleep in a padlocked room with a large iguana, prosecutors said in charges filed in U.S. District Court.
Jordie L. Callahan, 26, Jessica Hunt, 31, and Daniel Brown, 33, were arrested Tuesday and charged with forced labor. Callahan is charged with an additional count of tampering with a witness.
"These defendants violated the victim's most basic civil right, freedom, by exploiting her most basic instinct, the protection of her child," said Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in charge of Cleveland FBI office. "The FBI continues to aggressively pursue and bring to justice those individuals who abuse and harm members of our community."
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Callahan and Hunt recruited the woman and her child to live with them in their two-bedroom apartment on West Main Street in Ashland, where Hunt's four sons -- all under the age of 18 -- also lived.
While there, investigators said Callahan and Hunt forced the woman to clean the house, do laundry, do shopping and care for their pit bull dogs and reptiles.
The court filing alleges both Callahan and Hunt beat the woman and her child, threatened to kill them, denied them food and threatened them with the animals the woman was caring for.
The victims were initially forced to sleep on a concrete floor in the basement with no mattress, but they were eventually moved to a room upstairs where there was also no bed or mattress, investigators said.
The child wasn't allowed to leave this room, and it was padlocked at night to keep the woman and her child from escaping, authorities said.
As for what they were fed, prosecutors said the woman and her child were only allowed to eat canned food or what was left over after Callahan, Hunt and Hunt's children ate.
The woman was allegedly told to feed fruit and vegetables to an iguana, but she was not allowed to feed them to her child.
Investigators said the suspects slammed the woman's hand with a rock, hurt her back and kicked her in the hip on separate occasions in order to get pain medications that she was forced to turn over to Callahan and Hunt.
According to court records, the woman also told police Callahan and Hunt instructed her to beat her child while they recorded video of it so that if she "messed up" or told police about her living conditions, Callahan would show it to police to have her daughter taken away.
"We are yet again reminded that modern-day slavery exists all around us," said Steven M. Dettlebach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. "One of our nation's core values is freedom, yet this woman and her child were denied freedom for two years. The victims in this case endured violence, threats, sub-human living conditions and horrific acts."
"The streets are a lot safer with these folks locked up," Ashland Police Chief David Marcelli said. "Cooperation with the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office was key to the successful arrest of these individuals."
Ashland County Prosecutor Ramona Rogers said, "We are pleased to cooperate with the federal authorities, particularly when it provides for more severe punishment for these defendants."