CLEVELAND — One of four suspects in an Ohio forced-labor case pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges that a woman was held captive with her child and was threatened and made to do housework.
A federal magistrate in Cleveland released 21-year-old suspect Dezerah Silsby after a brief court appearance Thursday afternoon and ordered her to stay in contact with the probation office while awaiting trial.
Silsby entered a not guilty plea. Defense attorney Jennifer Scott says Silsby isn’t capable of the crimes detailed in the allegations.
An FBI affidavit says Silsby admitted she helped retrieve the woman and her child from their relative’s house and had slammed the woman’s hand in a door and smashed it with a rock.
Authorities said a mentally disabled mother was enslaved for two years along with her daughter. She spent time in jail this year after pleading guilty to beating the girl, but her attorney told a judge that her captors forced her to do it.
Beginning in early 2011, the suspects forced the mother 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 were freed in October after police investigated an abuse allegation one of the suspects made against her.
Police checking into her claim went to an apartment after one of the suspects said it was the woman who was abusive. Authorities said the 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 to 150 days in jail in February. She served only part of that sentence.