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Fourth suspect accused of holding disabled Ohio woman in slavery

(From left to right) Jessica Hunt, Jordie Callahan, Daniel Brown, three Ohio residents who are accused of holding a cognitively disabled wom
(From left to right) Jessica Hunt, Jordie Callahan, Daniel Brown, three Ohio residents who are accused of holding a cognitively disabled wom

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A fourth Ohio resident charged with holding an intellectually disabled woman and her young daughter against their will is also accused of smashing the woman's hand with a rock to get pain medication for the group, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Dezerah Silsby, was taken into custody on Wednesday and appeared in Cleveland federal court on Thursday, accused of being part of a group that conspired to force the woman to perform manual labor, threatened her with snakes, and forced her and her daughter to sleep in a padlocked room.

The 30-year-old woman, who prosecutors identified as "S.E.," and her 5-year-old child were held from May 2011 to October 2012 in an apartment in Ashland, about 70 miles southwest of Cleveland, prosecutors said.

The arrests came a little more than a month after the discovery in Cleveland of three women who were held prisoner for about a decade in a home owned by former school bus driver Ariel Castro, who has been charged with rape, kidnapping and murder.

Police learned of the Ashland case after S.E. was caught shoplifting a candy bar and asked to be taken to jail, saying two people now charged in the case - Jordie Callahan, 26, and Jessica Hunt, 31 - were "mean to her," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Callahan and Hunt recruited S.E to live with them and that Hunt used S.E.'s government benefits cards and rarely gave her money while forcing her to clean, do laundry and care for the animals, prosecutors said.

Records show S.E. was treated at a local emergency room at least three times for injuries she said were inflicted by defendants in the case, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also said Callahan and Hunt forced S.E. to hit her child, threatening worse harm on both of them if she did not comply. The incident was recorded and used as a threat if she tried to leave.

Ed Bryan, Hunt's attorney, said on Tuesday the government's witnesses were unreliable. Attorneys for the other defendants could not be reached for comment.

The group, which also includes 33-year-old Daniel Brown III, was charged on Tuesday in what a prosecutor called a case of modern-day slavery. Silsby, 21, was released on Thursday after posting a bond.

(Editing by David Bailey and Lisa Shumaker)

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