ASHLAND, Ohio — A mentally disabled woman and her daughter were held in an Ohio apartment crowded with people and animals for more than a year, forced to perform manual labor and threatened with dogs and snakes to keep them compliant, authorities said Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors said the people accused of holding the pair in Ashland, about 60 miles south of Cleveland, collected the woman’s government benefits and beat her in order to get painkillers for themselves. They kept her in a room with a free-ranging iguana and ordered her to feed the reptile fruits and vegetables her daughter was denied, according to court papers. Sometimes their captors’ pit bulls got table food while they had to eat from cans, according to an arrest affidavit quoting witnesses.
“The living conditions were simply subhuman,” said Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
“(We’re) talking about people who were locked in rooms, forced to work all the time, people who were threatened and beaten and injured, people who were exploited, people who had their money and benefits stolen, sort of used as pawns to get drugs,” he told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “And the worst part of all this is, you know, they tried to rob the victims of their basic human dignity. So almost everything they did was to prey on them, prey on their vulnerabilities and exploit them.”
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