The 67-year-old retired handyman accused of kidnapping at least five females and keeping them as sex slaves in an underground concrete dungeon may have been active since the 1980s, police say.
John Jamelske is accused of luring or pulling his victims into his car, and then bringing them back to his house, where he allegedly kept them chained in a two-room bunker beneath his back yard in the quiet town of Dewitt, outside Syracuse, N.Y.
Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh described a concrete prison that could only be reached with difficulty.
"Concrete walls, concrete ceiling, concrete floor," Walsh said. "You have to crawl on your hands and knees through an opening in the cellar."
The only furnishings in the bunker were a mattress, a microwave, a small tub, and a bucket for a toilet.
Seeking Additional Victims
Police are now seeking additional victims. They believe Jamelske has kidnapped, raped and imprisoned a series of girls and women in his suburban home as far back as 1988.
They released Jamelske's photo for the first time Monday, in an effort to coax other women to come forward.
Jamelske is being held without bail on charges of kidnapping, rape, sodomy and sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl, whom he allegedly held hostage from October or November until earlier this month.
Toward the end of her captivity, Jamelske began taking the girl out with him, police said. She managed to make two secret phone calls to her sister, Angela Wilson.
"She sounded afraid, she was quiet, I could barely hear her," Wilson told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. The conversation was 15 or 20 minutes. She told me that he [Jamelske] was a rapist and that she was being held against her will and was not able to come home," Wilson said.
After Wilson alerted police, Jamelske was arrested and the teen girl was rescued on April 7.
Ishmael Wilson, the girl's brother, is in the Army and was away on duty while his sister was missing. "Being in the military and coming back to such a horrific thing and some demented person who takes my little sister away into a dungeon against her own will, it's something that I can't believe happened to this family and to my sister," Wilson said.
The 16-year-old girl's attorney, Charles Bonner, says he and the girl's family were waiting to find out how much the police knew about Jamelske before he was arrested.
"We have heard the accounts of other women indicating that they were not heard, that they complained to police and the police did not believe them," Bonner said.
"We don't know if these reports are true. The family is quite disappointed, however, if indeed women did complain and the police did not respond, because the family believes that this 16-year-old girl would have been spared.
Snatched Off the Street
The latest victim to come forward described her ordeal in a statement released by the Onondaga County Sheriff's department. The woman, whose name has not been released, was 53 when Jamelske allegedly snatched her off the street after she rejected his offer to drive her home on the night of Aug. 31, 1997. She said he choked her twice, and then drove her to the house, where he raped her twice and chained her up.
"I cried and prayed every day of my captivity. I never cried in front of him again after he slapped me so hard and injured my ear," she said in her statement. The woman said the beating left her deaf in that ear.
"I tried to be friendly and make him laugh so that he would let me live," she said in the statement. "I would only cry when he was not around. I did not want to die down in those rooms because no one would ever find my body and my soul would remain in a cold place."
The woman called police after Jamelske released her in Syracuse, but was unable to give information on where she had been held. The case remained unsolved. After news of the 16-year-old's rescue was made public, she came forward again.
Always ‘A Little Odd,’ Son Says
Jamelske's own son knew the bunker was there, but said he did not know what it was used for.
"My father has always been a little odd," said Brian Jamelske. "If he took a fancy to do something he would do it, take on a project. He would have built something like that just for the novelty."
Officials say Jamelske chose his victims with no real pattern. Police say the victims include a 14-year-old girl taken in 1988, a 13-year-old girl in 1995, a 53-year-old woman in 1997, a 26-year-old in 2001, and the 16-year-old freed earlier this month.
Investigators said some of the other known victims said they went willingly with Jamelske after being offered a ride or coaxed into his car. One alleged victim, now 28, said she was high on drugs when she accepted a ride from Jamelske in 2001.
She went to police after she was released from two months of captivity, but was also unable to lead investigators to the house.
Since police had no further information, the attacker remained free, and the kidnappings continued. One of the victims was allegedly held for two years, another for 13 months. All were eventually released.
Although Jamelske would sometimes take his captives out in public, the victims were afraid to speak out then, or even after their release, because Jamelske threatened their lives and those of their relatives, police said.
Jamelske has said the 16-year-old was his girlfriend, but a friend, Keith Alexander, says he knew something was wrong when he saw the two of them together earlier this month.
"She was very withdrawn … wouldn't make eye contact … acting kind of skittish," Alexander said.
Since Jamelske's arrest, four other women have come forward, telling police that they were abducted and raped by the handyman. Prosecutors plan to present those cases to a grand jury. A psychologist has determined that Jamelske is competent to stand trial and assist in his own defense.
ABCNEWS' John Berman contributed to this report.