Suspect in Ohio enslavement case pleads not guilty

AP News
Posted: Jun 20, 2013 5:23 PM
Suspect in Ohio enslavement case pleads not guilty

CLEVELAND (AP) — One of four suspects in a forced-labor case on Thursday denied that she helped enslave a mentally disabled woman for two years with her child, threatened her, beat her and made her do housework.

A federal magistrate released Dezerah Silsby after a brief court appearance and ordered her to stay in contact with the probation office while awaiting trial.

Silsby, 21, entered a not guilty plea. She was advised by her attorney not to talk and left the courthouse without commenting.

Defense attorney Jennifer Scott said Silsby isn't capable of the crimes detailed in the allegations.

"She has not done these things," Scott said outside court. "In the course of the process of the justice system I believe the true facts will come to light."

Silsby, married with a 3-year-old and pregnant, has a demeanor and personality "not of the type to manipulate and force individuals into the types of accusations that are being made," Scott said.

An FBI affidavit says Silsby admitted she used ice cream to lure the woman and her daughter from their relative's house to captivity. In addition, the affidavit says, Silsby smashed the woman's hand with a rock so she could go to a hospital and bring back pain medication for the suspects.

The other suspects, Jordie Callahan, 26, Jessica Hunt, 31, and Daniel J. "DJ" Brown, 33, all of Ashland, about 60 miles southwest of Cleveland, were jailed to await a bond hearing on Monday. They were arrested Tuesday, and Silsby surrendered in Ashland on Wednesday.

The attorney for Hunt said she will plead not guilty. The attorneys for Callahan and Brown declined to comment.

Callahan's mother, Becky Callahan, said that the allegations were "all lies." She said that the woman was friends with her son and Hunt, her son's girlfriend, and that they tried to help the woman by offering her a place to live.

Beginning in early 2011, the suspects forced the woman 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, who's 5, were freed in October after police investigated an abuse allegation one of the suspects made against her.

Police first got involved when the woman was arrested on a candy bar shoplifting case and asked to be jailed because people had been mean to her.

Authorities said the abuse 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 in February to about five months in jail. She served only part of that sentence.