The Norman Transcript

June 20, 2013

Woman allegedly enslaved

By Thomas J. Sheeran and John Seewer
The Associated Press

CLEVELAND — A mentally disabled mother authorities said was enslaved for two years along with her daughter spent time in jail this year after pleading guilty to beating the girl, but her attorney told a judge that her captors forced her to do it.

Court records show that a child endangering complaint was filed against the woman in October 2012 just a day after she was charged with shoplifting and asked to be jailed because three people had been mean to her.

A forced labor charge was unsealed against a fourth suspect, Dezerah Silsby, after Silbsy surrendered to authorities. It wasn’t clear whether she had an attorney, and her case was not yet listed in online records late Wednesday.

Beginning in early 2011, the suspects forced the mother to cooperate with them by threats and physical abuse, federal prosecutors said. The woman told authorities she was forced to do housework by the suspects, who she said raided her bank account and menaced her with snakes and pit bulls.

The woman and her daughter were freed in October after police investigated an abuse allegation one of the suspects made against her.

Police checking into her “mean” claim went to an apartment after one of the suspects said it was the woman who was abusive. Authorities said the allegation was a ruse complete with a video staged by the suspects. They said the suspects had forced the woman to act as if she were mistreating her child.

The woman later pleaded guilty to child endangering and was sentenced to 150 days in jail in February. She served only part of that sentence.

Her attorney told a judge during sentencing that two of the suspects encouraged the woman to abuse the child and threatened to go to police if she didn’t comply, the Ashland Times-Gazette reported last winter.

“It’s unlikely that, on her own, she would have done these horrible things to that child,” attorney Michael Sullivan said.

He said that the woman was responsible for harming the child, but that it could have been worse if she had not complied, the newspaper reported.

Messages seeking comment were left Wednesday with Sullivan.

Authorities announced federal charges Tuesday against the three people the woman lived with in Ashland, about 65 miles southwest of Cleveland.

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.

A federal court lawyer for Callahan declined to comment.