Hunt said she tried to help alleged victim; defense rests case

Jurors may get case Thursday morning

By Chris Cotelesse
TheNewsOutlet.org

HUNT

HUNT

Jessica L. Hunt, one of two people accused of imprisoning and abusing a mentally challenged woman, today testified that she was trying to help the 30 year old.

Defense attorneys representing Jessica L. Hunt and Jordie L. Callahan rested their case shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday, marking the 12th day of the trial in Ohio’s Northern District Federal Court in Youngstown.

Hunt and Callahan are accused of abusing the woman and her 5 year old daughter in their Ashland home in order to steal her government assistance money.

Judge Benita Pearson released the jury two hours early on Tuesday and began Wednesday’s session with a two-hour delay while she heard and then rejected defense motions to dismiss charges against Hunt and Callahan.

When court opened Wednesday, Hunt testified that she never struck or threatened the alleged victim, referred to as S.E. in court documents, and that S.E. willingly remained at Hunt’s and Callahan’s home at 509 W. Main St. as a guest.

“My intentions were to help (S.E.),” Hunt said.

S.E. agreed to pay one-half of the household bills and offered to help with chores, but was never imprisoned or abused, Hunt said. She also said that she never denied food to S.E. or her daughter, refuting several witnesses who testified that the alleged victim and her daughter ate only canned food and Ramen noodles that were stored in the basement.

“If I prepared dinner, (S.E.) and her daughter ate with us,” Hunt said.

S.E. slept on a couch in the living room, and her daughter slept on a mattress on the floor when the pair first began staying with Hunt and Callahan, Hunt said.

But a caseworker with Ashland County Jobs and Family Services, who was inspecting the home, said S.E. and her daughter could not be there if Hunt hoped to be reunited with her four sons.

“For me to get my boys back, they (Ashland County Jobs and Family Services) said (S.E. and her daughter) had to go,” Hunt said. “Eventually, I had her place her belongings down in the basement.”

But Hunt said that S.E. and her daughter still slept comfortably above ground and would just hide from caseworkers during home visits.

“I couldn’t even imagine locking someone in a basement,” Hunt said.

After Hunt’s oldest son began visiting Hunt on certain weekends, S.E. and her daughter would leave for those few days, Hunt said, adding that she didn’t know where the two went.

“She (S.E.) went somewhere. She wasn’t at my house on those weekends,” Hunt said.

Hunt also denied witnesses’ allegations that she coerced S.E. to strike her daughter in order to record the beating and use it as blackmail against S.E, and that Callahan put S.E. in a dog cage and made her eat dog food.

She added that Callahan once pulled co-defendant Daniel J. Brown off of S.E. after he had begun beating her. Hunt acknowledged that no one stopped Brown from shaving S.E.’s head into a mohawk-style haircut and writing demeaning words on her head and chest.

“It wasn’t my place to say something,” she said.

Hunt admitted to “snorting” Vicodin given to S.E. at a local emergency room after co-defendant Dezerah Silsby allegedly slammed S.E.’s hand in a door and later with a rock in order to get pain medication. But Hunt said S.E. suggested it, and Hunt thought S.E. was joking.

“I didn’t think she was serious,” Hunt said.

Pearson will allow prosecutors to decide Thursday morning whether to call any rebuttal witnesses. Otherwise, Pearson will give jurors instructions and attorneys will present their closing arguments.

TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, The University of Akron, Cuyahoga Community College and professional media outlets including, WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator (Youngstown), The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).