Feds: Mother, child held captive in Ashland freed

11:19 PM, Jun 18, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- A disabled mother and her daughter, 6, were discovered being held captive in an Ashland home for two years and the four who kept them there are in custody now.

The woman was "disabled" after a childhood head injury and functions on a teenage level, according to federal officials.

Federal officials aren't saying much except that the investigation began when the mother was caught shoplifting a candy bar back in October 2012 and she wanted the officer to put her in jail.

The officer became suspicious and continued looking into the situation. That led to the discovery of the people in the home and their rescue in May.

Two men and a woman were named and charged for "repeatedly exposing the woman and her child to sub-human beatings," according to federal officials.

Jordie L. Callahan, 26, Jessica L. Hunt, 31, and Daniel J. Brown, 33, aka D.J. Brown were all arrested Monday and charged with forced labor.

Callahan is charged with an additional count of tampering with a witness.

A fourth person has been charged but officials are not yet releasing that person's name.

Officials say the woman and her daughter were "...threatened with weapons, pit bulls and snakes...and they were treated worse than the animals in the home..."

Officials say those charged used the woman's checking account to get money and also used her prescriptions.

Officials said the woman and the child "are doing well now" and those arrested will have their first court appearance at 2:30 p.m. today.

"We are yet again reminded that modern-day slavery exists all around us," said Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. "The victims in this case endured violence, threats, sub-human living conditions and other horrific acts."

Dettelbach said the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office worked with law enforcement officers in Ashland city and county to break the case, which began in October, when the Ashland woman was caught stealing a candy bar at a store.

She asked police to take her to jail because the people she was living with were "mean to her."

The Ashland police officer began an investigation.

The victim, who is only being identified as S.E., has a cognitive disability, suffered after a brain injury that occurred when she was 16.

She was acquainted with Callahan, Hunt and Brown, who the agents said "recruited" her to get her and her child to live with them in their two-bedroom apartment.

Hunt also had four young sons living there, as well as several pit bulls, a ball python, a 130-lb. Burmese python, a poisonous coral snake, and some iguanas.

S.E. and her child's captitivity began in May 2011, and included what federal agents call "involuntary servitude."

She and her child were forced to sleep on a cement floor in the basement with no mattress. When they were moved to a room upstairs, a padlock on the door and nailed down windows kept them from escaping.

The two often went hungry too -- even as they were forced to feed food to Callahan's iguanas or dogs.

Other horrifying aspects of the case: Callahan placed snakes on S.E., and in the face of her child, who screamed with terror; they also had someone smash S.E.'s hand with a rock so that she would be taken to the hospital and be given pain pills, as well as a prescription for more pain medicine.

Medical records verified that hospital visit in August of 2011, as well as another that December, when Callahan kicked S.E. in the hip so she would get a Vicodin prescription.

When police confronted Callahan last fall after S.E. told them her story, he showed them a year-old-tape which showed S.E. hitting her child. Police began a child abuse investigation, and talked more with S.E. about her time living with Callahan and Hunt.

S.E. explained to police that Hunt and Callahan made her beat her child, and threatened to beat the girl "even harder" if she didn't.

She said that she and her child were always under surveillance by video monitor and that she was warned if she told anyone about her living circumstances, police would take her child away from her.

Hunt also smashed both S.E. and her child's hands with canned goods. One at least one occasion, according to a witness, Callahan pointed a gun at S.E.'s head and said he would shoot her.

The victim also had to care for Hunt and Callahan's iguanas and pit bulls, clean the house, do laundry and yard work. She and her daughter were allowed minimal food - sometimes, their food was instead fed to one of the dogs - and given only leftovers or canned food.

Hunt, though, made sure to get all of S.E.'s government benefits, since she had taken her cards and personal identification numbers.

A witness reported seeing Hunt hold S.E.'s face down in a "mess" made by one of the pit bulls, as she yelled at her to clean up the dog's feces.

One witness said an upstairs room in which S.E. and her child lived got up to 100 degrees in the summer, and that she was surprised the child did not die.

When they thought S.E. might be planning an escape, Callahan and Hunt had Brown shave her head and wrote "slut," "tramp" and "whore" on her face and chest, in permanent marker.

They said the woman and her daughter are doing "relatively wel," since they got out of captivity last October.


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