GREENSBURG, Pa. – A couple and their three teenage children held a woman captive for six months, referring to her as their "slave" as they beat her, forced her to do chores and threatened her life and the lives of her relatives, police said Wednesday.
All five members of the family, ranging in age from 43 to 16, were arrested on charges of kidnapping and making terroristic threats. They had not yet entered pleas Wednesday but denied wrongdoing.
The accuser, Emily Nicely, 19, said she went to live with the family voluntarily but alleges that she had been forced to stay with them since September, authorities said.
Police were called March 10 after a man whose newspaper was delivered by the family reported seeing bruises on the young woman.
"She had injuries on every part of her body," said police Capt. George Seranko. A hospital examination also revealed that she had a concussion.
Nicely said her own family had moved out of Greensburg, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, and that she moved in with Mark and Cynthia Pollard and their children last summer so she could finish high school in the same district.
School district officials said, however, that she was last enrolled in the 2004-05 school year.
Mark Pollard, 43, Cynthia Pollard, 41, and their oldest son, Mark Jr., 18, remained in jail Wednesday, the day after their arrest. The couple's youngest children — Jonathan, 17, and Tabitha, 16 — were charged as adults but were released on bail and allowed to stay with relatives.
Cynthia Pollard told investigators that Nicely was bruised because she fell while delivering newspapers. She also said the family had "numerous physical confrontations with Nicely but that it was always in self-defense," according to a police affidavit.
"She's a liar," Cynthia Pollard told reporters after her arraignment Tuesday.
Nicely told police that shortly after she moved in with the Pollards they became physically abusive, forced her to work and never let her leave the house alone.
On numerous occasions, the Pollards punched the victim, kicked her and struck her with objects such as broom handles, a metal pipe, belts and boards, police said in an affidavit. "The Pollard family referred to her as their 'slave."'
"They told her that if she told anyone or tried to leave, they would put wire around her neck and strangle her. They would then go after her family," police said.
Nicely said she was also punished by having to stand with weights, with her hands on her head or in a corner for hours, police said. Cynthia Pollard acknowledged that Nicely was forced to stand in a corner.
Newspaper customer Nelson Williams, 66, and his caretaker called police after seeing Nicely's bruises on March 10.
"Her face, it looked like a baseball bat hit her," Williams told The Associated Press. "She was bad. Boy, she was bruised."
Williams said Cynthia Pollard told him Nicely had mental health problems and injured herself.
Nicely is now living with her mother in another county, authorities said. The Associated Press could not immediately locate Nicely for comment.