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In May 2011, for reasons unknown, Shannon Eckley, who has a mental age of 13, accepted Jordie Callahan’s and Jessica Hunt’s invitation that she and her toddler daughter move into their Ashland, Ohio apartment building. That was the start of a fourteen-month long nightmare, during which Callahan and Hunt used Eckley as slave labor, starved her, terrorized her with pit bulls and poison snakes, and blackmailed her into beating her own daughter. Meanwhile, they stole Eckley’s benefit money and used it on themselves.
Discussing the case, Steven Dettelbach, the U.S. Attorney for Northern District of Ohio, said that “We are yet again reminded that modern-day slavery exists all around us.”
Eckley first came to Ohio authorities’ notice when she was picked up for shoplifting. When she was first arrested, she told them that she was happy to go to jail because the people she lived with “were mean to her.” However, when the police approached Callahan and Hunt, they showed police a video of Eckley beating her own child.
What the police didn’t know at the time was that Callahan and Hunt forced Eckley to beat the child by threatening that, if she didn’t do it, they would do much more viciously. Callahan and Hunt then recorded the beating, telling Eckley that, if she ever “messed up” or contacted the police, they’d use the video to ensure that the police took Eckley’s child away from her.
The police were at first convinced that Eckley had engaged in criminal conduct. She was sentenced to 150 days in jail for two counts of child endangerment. Further investigation, however, revealed the appalling abuse and emotional blackmail heaped up on this mentally-disabled woman.
Federal investigators say that Callahan and Hunt used Eckley as a house slave for themselves and their four children. They routinely beat Eckley and her little girl. In addition to the beatings, Callahan and Hunt kept Eckley in line by threatening her with their pets: a poisonous coral snake, a ball python, a Burmese python weighing 130 pounds, lizards, spiders, scorpions, and “numerous” dogs, including pit bulls. Not content with the poisonous, dangerous menagerie, Callahan also threatened Eckley with a gun.
Even Eckley’s basic living conditions were deplorable. In the beginning, they locked her in a basement and she slept on a concrete floor without a mattress. Food was always an issue. Eckley would receive only the scraps left after Callahan, Hunt, and their four children had eaten. She was often refused any food at all, and forced to watch as Callahan fed his dogs. While Eckley and her child were deprived of any fresh food, it was Eckley’s responsibility to feed fresh fruits and vegetables to the reptiles.
This vile duo also used and abused Eckley to get drugs. On two occasions, they inflicted painful injuries on her and then took her to a doctor with orders to get narcotics. They held Eckley’s child as a hostage to ensure her compliance. Once Eckley obtained the drugs, Callahan and Hunt took them for their own use.
Callahan and Hunt did not act alone. Federal agents have also charged Daniel Brown, who caught Eckley when she tried to escape and returned her to her slavery Hell.
Ironically, Ariel Castro, who kept three women prisoner for a decade to serve as his sex slaves, lived only 65 miles away from the house in which Eckley and her daughter were imprisoned.