Neighbors, relatives express doubts that Richmond man forced woman to live in closet as sex slave

Neighbors, relatives express doubts that Richmond man forced woman to live in closet as 'sex slave'

Relatives and neighbors of the Richmond man accused of luring a woman from Nicaragua and forcing her to live in a closet in the Iron Triangle neighborhood have “described a far different relationship from the one authorities portrayed,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Eulogio Constantino-Sanchez, 35, who was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, rape, corporal injury, false imprisonment and conspiracy charges, had been “helping out the young woman,” who came and went at will from the home in the 600 block of Chanslor Avenue, loved ones and residents told the Chronicle. She even held a hotel job at one point, they said.

Abuse experts interviewed by the Chronicle, however, cautioned that abuse is “not necessarily obvious to those nearby,” adding victims don’t always know when they’re being abused.

The Chronicle had three reporters on the shocking story Wednesday, the day after Richmond police first reported the raid by local and federal authorities on the Iron Triangle home, where police say they found a frightened woman.

Few details about the investigation have been released due to the case’s sensitive nature, but authorities say the woman contacted the anti-domestic violence group STAND and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which then alerted Richmond police. Police managed to get the woman on the phone and pinpoint her location. The woman said she had met Constantino-Sanchez on Facebook and was promised work and a better life in the U.S. Once here, she was sexually and physically abused on a daily basis for about one year and forced to live in a closet for much of that time, police said.

Authorities say they found evidence “confirming all the information the detectives had obtained” about the alleged abuse.

Reporters from the Chronicle included the police account in their report, but also fetched a different perspective about Constantino-Sanchez from those who know him and the woman. Neighbors described him as friendly and hardworking and said he heads to his construction job daily at 6 a.m., the newspaper reported. Constantino-Sanchez and the woman were “always lovey-dovey,” they said, adding they would eat out together and the woman often headed out alone to buy groceries.

At one point, Constantino-Sanchez got her a cleaning job at a Sheraton Hotel, his niece said, adding, “I don’t believe she was kidnapped.”

But experts warned Chronicle readers not to read this book by its cover, as abuse is not always obvious.

“It’s not always a chain-link fence,” Carolyn Graham, intervention department community services manager for STAND. “If you don’t have anyone in the country, you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you’re surrounded by, your captor is a lifeline. A lot of people don’t understand that.”

The story has the community anticipating the release of evidence in the case.

Constantino-Sanchez was booked at the Martinez Detention Facility, police said.