Federal attorneys brought charges against three Ashland, Ohio, residents Tuesday, claiming they held a 29-year-old disabled woman and her 5-year-old daughter hostage, forcing her to do housework while threatening her with snakes and pit bulls.
The Associated Press reported that Jordie Callahan, 26; Jessica Hunt, 31; and Daniel J. "DJ" Brown, 33, were charged with forced labor
. Callahan also was charged with tampering with a witness in the investigation.
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The suspects had an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Cleveland and were ordered jailed until a bond hearing on Monday, according to the Associated Press. Authorities began investigating abuse charges in October when the allegations first surfaced.
"The victim in this case is slowly recovering," U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach told the AP.
Callahan's defense attorney Andrew Hyde, who represented her on related state kidnapping charges, called the charges "ludicrous" and claimed the disabled woman was never forced to stay in the home. According the AP, Hyde said he believed the claims are a ruse to deflect attention of child abuse allegations the disabled woman faces.
"There was never any forced labor, any forced co-habitation," Hyde said, according to the AP. "She was never forced to do anything. She used this story to get out of trouble she was in."
NBCNews.com reported that victim, known as "S.E." in the federal affidavit, suffered a head trauma at 16-years-old and had the functioning mental capacity of a 13-year-old
. The affidavit said her upstairs bedroom was padlocked with no bed, said NBCNews.com.
The affidavit also claimed the suspects routinely took money from the victim's monthly public assistance payments, per NBCNews.com.
Ashland Police opened an investigation in October 2012, after the victim was charged with shoplifting a candy bar. Police said that the victim asked to be jailed because the people she lived with "were mean to her," NBCNews.com reported.
The case in Ashland, which is roughly 65 miles southwest of Cleveland, sparked similarities to the Ariel Castro case. Castro was charged with kidnapping, rape, and felony assault charges in May
after three women claimed he held them against their will for 10 years. Castro, who faces more than 300 charges, fathered a child with one of the victims, according to The Associated Press.
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