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Man accused of locking woman in bedroom for years

August 13, 2012 2:20:22 PM PDT
Police searching an apartment for drugs found a woman they believe was kept padlocked in a bedroom for long periods of time over last several years - perhaps as long as a decade.

State police said members of its street gang unit discovered the 44-year-old woman on Thursday as they searched the Paterson home of 42-year-old Michael Mendez.

Based on interviews and evidence, state police spokesman acting Sgt. 1st Class Brian Polite said investigators believe the woman was kept in the bedroom for extended periods of time for the last two years and possibly up to 10 years.

Investigators said the woman was sometimes let out of the room when her boyfriend was home.

One neighbor in the complex of three-story brick buildings said he has known Mendez for about a dozen years and that Mendez would hang out in public areas. He said he saw the woman a few times in recent years, though it was rare. The man, who refused to give his name because of worries over safety, said he remembered seeing the woman get into a car sometime in the last few years.

Mendez, whom police say is a member of the Latin Kings street gang, was being held Monday at Passaic County Jail. Authorities didn't know if he had an attorney. No one answered when a reporter knocked on his apartment door Monday.

Mendez was charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment and other counts, including some related to the drugs officials said they were looking for in the first place. State police said they found 4,200 prescription pills valued at $100,000, 190 grams of marijuana valued at nearly $2,000 and nearly $23,000 in cash inside his apartment.

The woman was receiving a medical evaluation Monday.

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