DeWitt (WSYR-TV) – An incident in Cleveland in which three women reported missing were discovered more than a decade later has brought back haunting memories of the case of a convicted DeWitt kidnapper.
John Jamelske is serving 18 years to life for kidnapping five women and girls over several years and holding them captive for months and, in some cases, years.
Jamelske was guilty of some of the worst sex crimes in Onondaga County history.
First Chief Assistant District Attorney Rick Trunfio was in the middle of the prosecution and when he first learned of the case in Cleveland
, he was immediately reminded of it.
"As soon as I saw it that's the first thing that came to my mind was Jamelske. Having lived through it and investigated it and prosecuted it, it hit me like wow,” Trunfio said.
Trunfio was part of the team that questioned Jamelske about the details of the case.
Jamelske kidnapped five girls at different times over the course of 15 years. He held them as sex slaves and then randomly freed them. He was caught when his last victim broke free and called for help.
"We found basically a concrete bunker, through the garage and back of the house where these women were being held and it was horrendous,” said Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief John Balloni.
Just like Cleveland today, the national media descended on the Syracuse area while investigators tried to piece the case together.
“You have to keep your eye on the ball – if I can use that cliché – and be focused on what your job is and that's to put the case together and hopefully prevent leaks, which are inevitably going to happen, then you have to deal with the leaks,” Trunfio said.
"It was shocking for our community and nationally shocking also, and certainly this story in Cleveland will be the same thing. It’s hard to believe people can be abducted and held against their will for long periods of time,” Balloni said.
The two men said they know it will likely take time for investigators to unravel the case in Cleveland.
It took months for prosecutors to secure a plea deal that resulted in Jamelske’s sentence.
A plea deal spared Jamelske’s victims from reliving their traumatic imprisonment.
Jamelske is serving five simultaneous terms of 18 years to life in state prison.
He will not be eligible for parole until April 2021.