- 30-year-old Indiana woman returns home safely after being missing for two months
- Couple charged with holding her against her will inside their mobile home
- Victim says she was repeatedly raped and beaten, forced to wear a dog collar
- A stranger risked his life to rescue her after seeing her in a dog cage, police say
A young Indiana mother was gagged with chloroform and held captive for two months, forced to wear a dog collar tethered to an "intricate restraint system" and kept in a wooden cage built by one of her "sadist" captors, police said. The woman was repeatedly beaten and raped until a stranger risked his own life to rescue her, officials said.
CNN does not name victims of sexual assaults, but the woman's accused captors are now behind bars, charged Monday with a litany of offenses.
Police said the victim's ordeal began July 9, when the 30-year-old left the Evansville, Indiana, apartment she shared with her boyfriend after the two had a booze-fueled argument. She meandered the city's streets that night, bouncing between groups of friends before being spotted by Ricky House Jr., a man who was familiar to her, according to Chief Deputy Tom Latham of the Posey County Sheriff's Office. House offered her a ride. She accepted.
Three days later, police said the woman's mother reported her missing after she failed to show up to a planned family outing. Over nearly two months, Latham said Evansville Police followed up on plenty of leads, "they just never got the right lead," he said.
The ride with House on July 9 became a 40-mile drive to the mobile home he shared with girlfriend Kendra Tooley in the small town of Stewartsville and the victim decided she wanted to leave, according to a police affidavit. "(The victim) got up to leave," Evansville detective Tony Mayhew recounted in court documents, but "Ricky placed chloroform over her mouth and nose (which caused) her to lose consciousness. (The victim) awoke to find her clothing cut off and she was bound to a bed within the trailer."
Throughout July and August, police said, House and Tooley kept their victim bound to the bed with zip ties or with "an intricate restraint system." Her captors treated her like a dog, forcing her to wear "a red dog collar with a rope or leash attached to it," and forced her to stay inside a "locked wooden cage" that House built, according to court documents.
Throughout her captivity, she was raped and beaten, she told police. Tooley told police that House, whom she described as "a sadist," was "attempting to impregnate (the victim) because (Tooley) was old and unable to have children of her own."
The victim was under constant restraint and supervision, according to police, and had seen nobody other than her captors until September 4, when Tooley invited her ex-husband to the trailer to show off the captive.
"(Tooley) slid over on the couch beside me and said 'I've got a girl back here in a cage.' Ronald Higgs told CNN affiliate WEHT. "I said 'you got a girl back here in a cage? What are you talking about?"
The prisoner pleaded with Higgs to help free her.
"I didn't really know what I could do because I'm nowhere near the man I used to be," the 61-year-old father of girls told WEHT, "but (I wasn't) leaving (that) house without her."
After his attempts to buy her freedom were rejected, police said the encounter turned violent and House retrieved his sawed-off shotgun.
"He stuck that shotgun right here under my chin with his finger on the trigger," Higgs told WEHT. "I said if you're going to effing kill me you better do it now or I'm going to take this away from you and beat you to death with it."
Higgs said he was able to head butt House, who retreated into another room. It was then he was able to safely escape with the victim.
House, 37 is facing 14 counts of rape, kidnapping, criminal confinement and battery, according to charging documents filed Monday by the Posey County prosecutor's office. Tooley, 44, was charged with 10 counts of rape, kidnapping and criminal confinement. A judge set House's bond at $500,000 and Tooley's at $150,000, according to the sheriff's office. WEHT reported the pair were assigned public defenders and the court entered a preliminary not guilty plea.
The couple are due back in court October 1, but Higgs said he already knows what he'd like their sentence to be.
"I told the police ... I hope you all have some real small cells," he told WEHT. "That's where they need to spend the rest of their lives, in a real small cell."