Police say fourth suspect in Ohio forced labor case turns herself in

June 20, 2013 at 8:32 AM   |   Comments

ASHLAND, Ohio, June 20 (UPI) -- A fourth suspect has turned herself in to authorities after she was charged with forcing a disabled Ashland, Ohio, woman to be her slave, police said.

The U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of Ohio said Dezerah Silsby, and Ashland residents Jessica Hunt, Jordie Callahan and Daniel J. Brown are accused of holding the woman and her young daughter captive for two years in a basement that also was home to pythons and pit bulls, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.

Silsby is to appear in court Thursday.

Federal prosecutors said the four are accused of holding the mother and daughter captive in Ashland, south of Cleveland, collecting the woman's government benefits, forcing the two to eat food meant for the animals and beating the woman to get painkillers for themselves, CNN reported.

Officials said the woman also was forced to beat her child, estimated to be either 5 or 6. The beatings were recorded on a cellphone.

Court records indicated the woman, who sustained a brain injury that left her with the mental capacity of a 13- or 14-year-old, was told if she tried to escape her captors would report her for child abuse.

Callahan's mother, Becky, told CNN the accusations are false and the alleged victim was free to leave the apartment.

"She was giving them a couple hundred dollars a month for staying there. She was getting her own food. She wasn't being starved," Callahan's mother said.

Andy Hyde, who has represented Callahan, told CNN Wednesday prosecutors wrongly portrayed the relationships between the victims and the suspects.

"It was clear in my discussions that they were never forced. This group were all friends," Hyde said. "There are photographs ... [of] them all drinking beer together, laughing, joking on a couch."

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