By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - An Ohio couple was convicted on Friday of holding captive a cognitively disabled woman and her young child, who were forced to eat dog food and threatened with a large snake, federal prosecutors said.
A jury found Jordie Callahan, 27 and Jessica Hunt, 32, guilty of engaging in labor trafficking, conspiracy and forced labor after a three-week trial in a Youngstown federal court.
Prosecutors told jurors during the trial that Callahan threatened to kill the adult victim if she did not engage in sex acts with him, clean the apartment, go to the store and care for the couple's numerous dogs and reptiles.
Prosecutors also said the victims were beaten, threatened with pit bulls and a 130-lb (60-kg) Burmese python, fed dog food and made to crawl on the floor while wearing a dog collar as they were being held captive in a room in the couple's Ashland apartment, some 85 miles northeast of Columbus.
"These defendants inflicted unspeakable cruelty upon this mother and her child," U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said. "This case provides another stark reminder that human trafficking takes place all around us and that we need to be better neighbors to one another."
Callahan and Hunt were also convicted of injuring the woman on numerous occasions in order for her to obtain narcotic pain medication only to use it to satisfy their own drug habits, according to prosecutors.
Authorities became aware of the situation after the victim was caught shoplifting in an attempt to be arrested and escape her capturers.
Callahan and Hunt are scheduled to be sentenced in July.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Brendan O'Brien, Mary Wisniewski and Lisa Shumaker)