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Ashland man sentenced to prison for labor trafficking

Story By: Brigitte Coles



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  Originally Published on: 7/23/2014

An Ashland man was sentenced to 30 years in prison for holding a woman with cognitive disabilities and her child against their will and forcing the woman to perform manual labor for them, said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland office.

Jordie L. Callahan, 28, and Jessica L. Hunt, 33, were convicted in March following a three-week trial before U.S. District Judge Benita Y. Pearson. Callahan and Hunt were both convicted on one count each of conspiracy to violate laws; forced labor and acquiring a controlled substance by deception.

“Mr. Callahan, through his cruelty, sought to deprive the victims in this case of their dignity and their freedom,” U.S. Attorney Dettelbach said. “He failed in the former, and the victim’s strength ended up trumping his. As for the freedom part – now it is the defendant whose freedom will be taken, for a long time.”

“Hopefully this well-deserved lengthy sentence will provide a sense of justice that will assist the victims in their ongoing healing process,” Special Agent in Charge Anthony said.

Hunt is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Pearson on July 24. Daniel J. Brown, 35, and Dezerah L. McGuire (formerly Silsby), 33, also of Ashland, both previously pleaded guilty to related crimes are serving sentences in federal prison.

Brown was sentenced to five years in prison and McGuire was sentenced to nearly four years in prison.

Callahan and Hunt used a combination of violence, threats, sexual assaults, humiliation, deprivation and monitoring to establish and continue a pattern of domination and control over their victims, Shannon Eckley and her 5-year-old daughter, according to the court documents and trial testimony.

Their tactics included beating Eckley, threating to beat to Eckley and her daughter, taunting and threatening the victims with pit bulls and snakes, causing the victims to sleep in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, restricting the victims access to the bathroom, preventing them from eating regular and suitable meals and forcing them to eat dog food and crawl on the floor while wearing a dog collar, according to the court documents and trial testimony.

According to court documents and trail testimony: Callahan pointed a firearm at Eckley’s head and threatened to kill her if she did not perform the labor and services he and other conspirators commanded. Callahan also forced Eckley on multiple occasions to engage in sex acts with him and threatened that he and Hunt would kill her if she told anyone about the forced sexual acts.

The conspiracy between Callahan, Hunt, McGuire and Brown took place between August 2010 and October 2012. The object of the conspiracy included holding Eckley in a condition of forced labor and involuntary servitude and intentionally causing painful injuries to Eckley so they could use the narcotic pain medications she was prescribed to satisfy their personal drug cravings.

Callahan and Hunt recruited Eckley and her daughter to live with them in their two-bedroom apartment in Ashland, knowing that Eckley suffered a traumatic brain injury that left her with a cognitive disability and that Eckley and her daugghter received monthly public assistance payments.

In August 2011, McGuire, at the direction of Callahan and Hunt, smashed Eckley’s hand with a rock with such force that she needed to go to the hospital emergency room. Callahan, Hunt and McGuire then forced Eckley to give them the narcotic pain pills and prescription for narcotic pain pills she obtained after being treated at the emergency room.

In December 2011, Callahan and Hunt injured Eckley’s back with such force that she needed medical treatment. Again, Callahan and Hunt forced Eckley to give them the narcotic pain pills and prescription for narcotic pain pills she obtained after being treated.

In March 2012, Callahan kicked Eckley in the hip with such force that she needed medical treatment. Callahan and Hunt forced Eckley to give them the narcotic pain pills and prescription for narcotic pain pills she obtained after being treated.

On multiple occasions between August 2010 and October 2012, Callahan and Hunt threatened the victims with serious physical harm, including death, if they did not clean up the apartment, care for their numerous pit bull dogs, snakes and other reptiles, purchase items at the store and perform other labor and services ordered by the conspirators.

Callahan and Hunt used a video camera to monitor the victims activities and conversations in the apartment. They often forced Eckley to walk to the store to buy groceries, cigarettes, dog food and other items for Callahan, Hunt and Hunt’s four sons and to pay for these purchases with her public assistance card. They allotted  Eckley only a brief time period to complete the shopping and warned her she was not allowed to speak with anyone while she was out.

They frequently required her daughter to remain with them at the apartment while she was out and threatened physical harm to the victims if she broke any of their rules. Callahan and Hunt also threatened to contact Ashland County Job and Family Services and have the daughter taken away if Eckley purchased any items at the store other than those they ordered or if she told anyone about their unlawful conduct.

In June 2011, after the victims had attempted to flee the apartment, Callahan and Hunt ordered Brown and McGuire to find them and bring them back to the apartment. Brown and McGuire lured the victims into their vehicle by promising to take them to Dairy Queen, only to deposit them afterwards back at the apartment.

On multiple occasions, Callahan and Brown locked the victims in a room with a window that was nailed shut and a door that had been locked from the outside.

In October 2011, Callahan and Hunt forced Eckley to hit her child while they recorded a video, and threatened to inflict much greater physical harm on both the victims if she did not comply. One month later, Callahan and Hunt again forced Eckley to strike her daughter while they captured a video recording of the staged incident on Callahan’s cell phone.

Callahan and Hunt repeatedly threatened have the daughter taken away by showing the videos to authorities in order to secure Eckley’s compliance to the conspirators’ commands.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chelsea Rice and Thomas E. Getz following an investigation by the FBI and Ashland Police Department, with assistance from the Ashland County Prosecutor’s Office.

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