People in the southern California town of Lancaster started hearing screams coming from their neighbor’s home.
One resident, who asked to remain anonymous, described what he heard to KABC.
“I could actually hear a woman, an older woman yelling for help, what sounded like somebody being hit or being forced to be submerged in some type of water. But I couldn’t really say for 100 percent. I never physically witnessed it, but I could hear it.”
They also often saw a woman near the house, covered in bruises and bandages that she claimed were sustained in a car accident. It was enough for them to call police, and when they arrived, they unearthed something horrifying.
At first, they didn’t see anything amiss when they spoke to the people who lived in the suspicious house, Elias Abdurahman, 61, and Sara Kebede Tadesse, 50. But then they went into the backyard, opened a storage shed, and found the man’s sister inside, Reuters reported.
Woman is found in locked shed in Lancaster after year of torture, officials say http://t.co/WG6baHmjGJ
— L.A. Times News 24/7 (@latimesfirehose) September 29, 2015
She was malnourished, thin and frail, and covered in bruises both old and new. Abdurahman and Tadesse were immediately arrested, the Los Angeles Times added.
Police believe the woman was beaten with a cane.
Now authorities are tasked with figuring out why she had been locked in the storage shed and for how long. Deputy District Attorney Ricardo Santiago said they haven’t determined a motive yet, as it’s too early in the investigation. But so far, they’ve pieced together a few details.
Firstly, it’s not clear how long the woman, who was reported to be 54-years-old, had been locked inside. However, the Associated Press reported that she had likely been living in the storage shed for a while but may have only recently been locked inside following a family dispute, said Sgt. Harold Morrow from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Secondly, authorities believe she had been abused and tortured for probably a year. After police rescued her from the locked storage shed, she was interviewed; Morrow described her as a “reluctant victim.”
“That’s what we’re trying to get to the bottom of — how long has this been going on? We’re just trying to keep her cooperation and get to the story. We’re still scratching our heads on the whole thing.”
Her brother and his girlfriend now face a host of disturbing charges for allegedly keeping her imprisoned. Prosecutors say that the pair tortured her for revenge, extortion, persuasion, and for a sadistic purpose. They’ve each been charged with one count each of false imprisonment by violence, torture, assault with a deadly weapon and dependent adult abuse, and have been accused of personally inflicting great bodily injury.
The torture charge is related to the intention “to cause cruel and extreme pain and suffering for the purpose of revenge, extortion, persuasion and for a sadistic purpose” over a year-long period. As for the false imprisonment charge, it was “effected by violence, menace, fraud and deceit,” and covers only the one day authorities found her locked in the storage shed.
Police also said she was somehow considered an adult dependent, but neither Morrow nor the county prosecutor could explain to the AP why she has been given that status.
Both Abdurahman and Tadesse face life in state prison if convicted on these charges and are now in jail pending $1 million bond. Both apparently speak an Ethiopian dialect, making their court appearances difficult until a translator could be found, but their immigration status and country of origin aren’t clear.