Abducted woman scared with snakes, dogs

2013-06-19 22:38

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Ashland - 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.

Authorities announced federal charges on Tuesday against the three people the woman lived with in a working class neighbourhood, about 100km southwest of Cleveland.

Beginning in early 2011, they forced the mother to co-operate 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 suspects were charged with forced labour.

Callahan also was charged with tampering with a witness in the investigation.

The suspects had an initial appearance in US 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 Lieutenant Joel Icenhour.

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

'Mean' claim

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.

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

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