ASHLAND, Ohio (TheBlaze/AP) — A mentally disabled woman charged with shoplifting a candy bar asked to be jailed because three people "had been mean to her" — then went on to tell authorities about her time spent in unfathomably cruel servitude, along with her young daughter, at the hands of these individuals, authorities said Tuesday.
On several occasions, according to an FBI affidavit, the suspects injured her and ordered her to go to an emergency room for pain medication they would then take for themselves.
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.
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. Credit: AP
CNN provides more context to the allegations:
The mother and daughter were sometimes forced to eat dog food, according to a law enforcement source with firsthand knowledge of the investigation.
They were also frequently denied access to the bathroom, FBI Special Agent Eric Smith told reporters.
"They were physically punished for toiletry accidents," he said, "and they were threatened not only with weapons but also with vicious animals, to include pit bulls and pythons."
Authorities announced federal charges Tuesday against three people they say invited the woman and her child, whose names were withheld, to live with them in their blue-collar Ashland neighborhood of older two-story houses. Beginning in early 2011, they forced the mother to cooperate with them by threats and physical abuse, authorities 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, calling the living conditions in the home "simply subhuman."
CNN has more about this shocking case:
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.
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 co-habitation. 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.
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.