SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — A retired handyman pleaded guilty yesterday to holding five women captive as sex slaves in an underground bunker over a 15-year period.
John Jamelske, 68, pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree kidnapping. Under a plea deal, Jamelske could serve 18 years to life. Each count carried a maximum penalty of 25 years to life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled July 15.
“He’s been very agitated and remorse-stricken. He’s been very troubled at times over the past several weeks,” said J. Michael Forsyth, Jamelske’s attorney.
When asked whether Jamelske knew what he was did was wrong, Mr. Forsyth said, “It took a while for him to come around to that realization.”
Jamelske has been held without bail since being arrested April 7 on charges of holding a 16-year-old girl hostage for nearly seven months in a two-room concrete dungeon he built under the back yard of his suburban Syracuse home. The two small rooms contained a small tub, a bucket for a toilet, a microwave and a mattress.
The 16-year-old girl was able to sneak a phone call to her sister when Jamelske took her out in April to run an errand after six months of captivity, police said.
In a whispered call, she told her sister she was being held captive and raped. The call led police to a weathered, blue, ranch-style house, hidden behind a wall of 20-foot evergreens and fenced off from neighbors.
After Jamelske’s arrest, police identified four other women who said they were abducted and raped by him dating back to 1988.
Authorities said the other victims included a 14-year-old girl taken in 1988, a 13-year-old girl in 1995, a 53-year-old woman in 1997 and a 26-year-old in 2001.
According to investigators, some of the victims said they went willingly with Jamelske after being offered a ride or coaxed into his car. The youngest teenagers had a history of running away from home. The 26-year-old woman told police she was high on drugs when she accepted a ride from Jamelske in 2001.
She went to police after she was released after two months of captivity, but was unable to lead investigators to the house. The older woman, who was held nine months, also was unable to tell police where she had been held.
One of the teens was held for nearly two years, the other for 13 months, police said.