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Press Release

Ashland Woman Sentenced To Nearly Four Years In Prison In Forced-Labor Case

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Ohio

An Ashland woman was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for her role in a conspiracy in which a cognitively disabled woman and her child were held against their will and forced to perform manual labor, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Antony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland Office.

U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson sentenced Dezerah L. Silsby to 45 months in prison. Silsby, 22, pleaded guilty last year to two counts: conspiracy to commit an offense or defraud the United States, and acquiring controlled substances by deception.

“This defendant physically hurt another person as a way to get drugs and played a role in denying the victim and her daughter freedom,” Dettelbach said. “The conduct in this case is profoundly disturbing.”

“Dezerah L. Silsby admittedly inflicted pain and stole from a person being held against her will in order to feed her own drug habit,” Anthony said. “This sentence is well deserved for these cruel acts.” 

Daniel J. Brown, 34, is currently serving five years in prison for his role in the crimes. Jordie L. Callahan, 27, and Jessica L. Hunt, 32, both of Ashland, were convicted following a jury trial this year and are scheduled to be sentenced July 22.

The victims in this case are identified only as S.E. and her juvenile child. S.E. suffered from a cognitive disability and received monthly public assistance payments, according to court documents.

Callahan and Hunt recruited S.E. and her child to live with them in their two-bedroom apartment in Ashland in 2011. Hunt’s four juvenile sons also lived at the house, along with numerous pit bull dogs, large snakes and other reptiles, according to court documents.

Callahan and Hunt monitored S.E. and her child’s activities with a baby monitor, according court documents.

Callahan and Hunt forced S.E. to clean the house, do laundry, walk to the store to do their shopping and care for their numerous pit bulls and reptiles. S.E. was timed when she went to the store and was not allowed to bring her child with her, according to court documents.

Callahan and Hunt beat S.E. and her child, threatened their lives, denied them food and threatened them with the pit bulls and reptiles, according to court documents.

At various points, Callahan threated S.E. with a gun. S.E. and her child initially were forced to sleep on a cement floor in the basement with no mattress. Later they were moved to a room upstairs, again with no bed or mattress. The child was kept in the room all day and at night the room was padlocked to keep S.E. and her child from escaping, according to court documents.

In August 2011, Callahan had the idea to smash S.E.’s hand and then send her to the emergency room to get pain medication that would be shared by Callahan, Hunt and Silsby. Silsby slammed S.E.’s hand with a rock and then took S.E. to the emergency room and returned with a prescription for pain medication, according to court documents.

In December 2011, Callahan and Hunt injured S.E.’s back and then forced her to turn over the prescription for Vicodin she received for her back injury, according to court documents.

On another occasion, Callahan kicked S.E. in the hip, and then he and Hunt forced turn over the prescription for Vicodin she received for her hip injury, according to court documents.

When S.E. attempted to flee the apartment, Brown and Silsby deceived S.E. into accompanying them in their vehicle and returned her to Callahan and Hunt’s apartment, according to court documents.

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

Updated March 12, 2015