Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods




In late 1999, Jamelske's wife of 40 years died after a long illness. Though she was living in the house during the time Jamelske held the girls in his dungeon, there were no indications that she ever knew about his fiendish activities.

By the spring of 2001, Jamelske was ready for another sex slave. Night after night, he roamed through nearby communities for a potential victim. During the late evening of May 11, he parked his 1975 Comet sedan on Geddes Street in Syracuse. He saw a young woman who was walking to a friend's house. The girl had just finished working her shift at an Outback Steakhouse in nearby DeWitt (Smalley and Mnookin). She was 26-years-old and the mother of two small children. Jamelske called out to the woman and asked her if she needed a ride. "Well, I was walking in a bad neighborhood," she later said, "and there was a group following behind me kind of saying stuff. And so I was a little nervous" (CNN Larry King Live).

The woman, who later identified herself to the public as "Jennifer," got into Jamelske's car and told him that she wanted to go home. According to her own statements, Jennifer had been drinking and could not recall exactly what happened to her during the ride. She later said they drove for a while until they arrived at Jamelske's garage. Not knowing where she was, Jennifer tried to get out of the car. "I tried... getting out of the car, and I couldn't," she said. "And that was the last thing I remember" (CNN Larry King Live). She later found herself inside a dark concrete cell, completely naked and alone in the frigid darkness. "I couldn't see. It was pitch black," she said. A few days later, her family reported her missing to the police but again, a follow-up investigation produced little results. Onondaga County Sheriff Walsh told the press his department did everything they could to find Jennifer. "I can remember that we even had the helicopter up searching neighborhoods to see if she had been lost in the area where she was last seen."

Hidden entrance to dungeon
Hidden entrance to dungeon

Over the next two months, Jamelske had sex with his prisoner nearly every day. He told her that her situation was hopeless, that the police were involved and no one could help. He threatened to sell her over the Internet for $30,000 and allowed her to eat only once a day. She had to use a makeshift toilet that consisted of a plastic bucket under a chair and slept on a three-inch thick piece of foam that lay on the damp and slimy floor. He controlled every facet of her existence. "He was skilled at brainwashing," she later said (CNN Larry King Live). Jamelske would spend hours with Jennifer inside the bunker reading the Bible and preaching to her. She thought of knocking him unconscious somehow and fleeing captivity, but Jamelske had thought of that possibility. Whenever he entered the dungeon, he would place a combination padlock on the door. If he were ever to be overpowered, Jennifer would have no way of getting out of the concrete cell. "I had to have sex with him every day," she said later during a TV interview, "He said that was part of the ritual. I bathed once every two weeks... I had to go to the bathroom in a bucket. It was disgusting!" (Fish).

After just two months, Jamelske decided to let her go. On July 7th, he entered the dungeon where Jennifer was chained to the floor. "He came down into the room and gave me my clothes that I had came there in," she later said. "And he threw them at me and he said, you're going home. And I was terrified! I thought he was going to kill me!" (CNN Larry King Live). But Jamelske placed a hood over her head and handcuffed her. He took her to his car and drove her around for about thirty minutes. Jennifer had no idea where she was or where she was going. Suddenly, the car came to an abrupt stop. Jamelske removed her handcuffs and hood. She discovered she was standing in front of her mother's home. "I never told him where my mom lived," she said. "I was thanking God!" (CNN Larry King Live).

Syracuse City Police sign
Syracuse City Police sign

When Detective Schmidt and Syracuse City Police interviewed Jennifer at the Onondaga County Sheriff's Office, they listened carefully to the woman's story. "She said that she was held in a dungeon," he said, "and described the room where she was held. She said that the words, "WALL OF THUGS" were painted on the wall in red along with a giant peace sign." But Jennifer was vague about other details. Her explanation of how she was abducted didn't coincide with witness accounts. Jennifer also said that she didn't know where the dungeon was located because she was blindfolded when she was released. Despite some lingering doubts, Schmidt tried in vain to locate the suspect's house. "I drove her all around the city," he said. "We also tried to find the suspect's car as well." Jennifer had described the car as a 1975 Comet. She knew the year and make because she had seen the car registration sometime during her captivity. Schmidt performed a motor vehicle record search and discovered only a single 1975 Comet registered in New York State. But it turned out to be not the one.

Eventually, the case was placed in the inactive file while Jamelske, who became more brazen with each abduction, continued to collect empty bottles and women off city streets.

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