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Police Investigating Allegations Of Woman Chained In Unheated Shed

November 15, 1988

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ Authorities investigated but apparently took no action on behalf of a woman who said she was forced to live in an unheated shed, chained to a wall, while her husband lived with another couple in a nearby trailer.

Portions of heavy chain and a padlock were attached to the 22-year-old woman’s waist and wrists when she sought help from a neighbor Friday, said Lt. Norm Nickerson of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department. Deputies used bolt cutters to free the 22-year-old woman, who was described as underfed and abused.

Authorities apparently were told about the woman last April when a neighbor showed them a copy of ″house rules″ the woman was expected to follow, including when to bathe, what to wear and when to have sex with her husband.

Neighbors and others familiar with the case said the woman’s allegations were reported to the state Department of Social and Health Services in April and again about a month ago.

Frank Mendizabal, a DSHS spokesman in Olympia, said the case was handled properly in April when allegations of sexual abuse were made.

He said the case was referred to the sheriff’s department for investigation, and that no criminal charges were brought because the woman told investigators she had willingly signed the house rules and was not being forced to have sex against her will.

A DSHS social worker met with the woman Monday to help explain her options and plan for the future, Mendizabal said.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Ethridge said the state agency asked the sheriff’s department to investigate in April, but detectives could not find enough evidence to justify an arrest.

″The incident is still under investigation by our officers to see if any criminal acts were involved,″ Nickerson said. ″We’re still trying to get the full story. We still haven’t been able to interview everyone involved. We’re going into it quite extensively in the next few days.″

The woman apparently is married to a sergeant stationed at nearby Fairchild Air Force Base who lived with another couple in a mobile home near the shed. Ethridge said he questioned a man in the mobile home who claimed to have married the woman in May.

The woman told sheriff’s deputies that she had been chained to a wooden board inside an old, dilapidated camper she called ″the shed,″ Ethridge said. ″It’s not a place for human habitation,″ Ethridge said.

″It appears from the preliminary investigation there is merit to her allegations,″ he said.

Fran Pierson, the neighbor from whom the woman sought help, said the woman was wearing an Air Force jacket, a dirty pair of men’s long underwear and military boots that were several sizes too large.

The woman showed the list of rules to neighbor Wendy White in April because she did not understand it.

Ms. White gave copies of the rules to her father-in-law, an Eastern State Hospital psychiatrist, who contacted the DSHS in April. She said she was later called and told the matter had been investigated.

″They didn’t feel she was in any danger,″ she said. ″They just said, ’Don’t worry. She’ll be taken care of.‴

The woman was treated at a Spokane hospital and is being cared for at a temporary shelter, Nickerson said.

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