Jury deliberating slave labor case

By JOHN P. COYNE Associated Press Published:

YOUNGSTOWN -- A man and his girlfriend used threats, intimidation and physical abuse to keep a mentally disabled woman enslaved her for two years along with her young daughter, a prosecutor told jurors who began considering the charges Thursday.

A defense attorney for the woman accused investigators of sensationalizing what happened and using unreliable witnesses, including two people who already pleaded guilty in the case.

Jessica Hunt, 32, and Jordie Callahan, 27, are accused of raiding the woman's bank account and public assistance and forcing her to engage in sexual acts.

Jurors deliberated for about 90 minutes before going home for the day. They will start again on Friday.

Prosecutors said the woman and her daughter were threatened with a python and pit bulls while being forced to live in a damp, dark basement with a lock on the door and no bathroom in the northern Ohio town of Ashland.

Authorities said the ordeal lasted from early 2011 to late 2012. Police first got involved in the case when the alleged victim was arrested on a candy bar shoplifting case and asked to be jailed because people had been mean to her.

Hunt and Callahan forced the woman to shop, cook, clean up after their dogs and do other household chores, said assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice.

"They terrorized her to the point of silence," Rice said. "She had to do these things in order to avoid beatings to herself and her daughter."

Hunt's attorney, Ed Bryan, said the woman was a roommate who was expected to do chores and pay rent. He said prosecutors were relying on faulty evidence.

He also blamed any trouble in the house on the two who already had pleaded guilty.

Dezerah Silsby, who was accused of using ice cream to lure the woman and her child, who was under age 5, into captivity, entered a plea under a sealed agreement. She earlier testified that she drove the woman and Hunt to an ATM to get money using the woman's government funds debit card.

Callahan's attorney, Donald Butler, denied that the pair stole from woman. He said the money they got went toward covering the woman's share of the rent.

He told the jury that Hunt and Callahan and their friends used drugs and lived a different lifestyle, but that did not mean they mistreated the woman. He said that both of the defendants tried to help the woman and her daughter.

"Even at the bottom of society, they relied on each other. That's all this was," Butler said.

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