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Mass. pair sentenced in slavery case

BROCKTON, Mass., June 7 -- A man and woman admitted Wednesday they forced a young retarded woman to work as a virtual slave in their home in Halifax, Mass. Diane Miller, 41, and Richard Verville, 22, changed their pleas to guilty in Brockton Superior Court on charges that they confined Renee Conrad and beat her over a three-year period.

Miller was sentenced to three-to-five years in state prison with five years on probation. Verville was handed a two-and-a-half year term and five years probation. The pair reversed their stance at the last minute after the judge in the case ruled to allow the victim to testify, despite the defense's contention that she wasn't competent enough. Conrad was found two years ago bearing marks of physical abuse and confined to the basement of Miller's house, in a boiler room furnished with just a mattress, a trough to eat from and a bucket for her personal use. The pair were arrested and charged with kidnapping and assault. Investigators say the landlady and the young tenant would give Conrad chores to do, then beat her if they weren't performed properly. Conrad had originally moved to the house as a tenant. Conrad, who is now 24, is living with a foster family.

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