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Pair accused of keeping girl in metal box due in court Friday

August 01, 2013|By Joseph Serna
  • Ryan Balletto, left, 30, of Lakeport and Patrick Pearmain, 24, of Clearlake are accused of cultivating marijuana and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl they allegedly kept in a metal box.
Ryan Balletto, left, 30, of Lakeport and Patrick Pearmain, 24, of Clearlake… (Lake County Sheriff's Department )

Two men accused of cultivating marijuana and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl they allegedly kept in a metal box were assigned defense attorneys this week and are due back in court Friday.

Ryan Alan Balletto, 30, and Patrick Steven Pearmain, 25, appeared in a San Francisco federal court Wednesday.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office said in a statement last weekend that the girl was sexually assaulted repeatedly during her captivity. In court documents unsealed this month prosecutors allege the pair forced the girl to “trim,” or cut up, their marijuana for drying.

The two were arrested on suspicion of unlawful intercourse with a minor under 16 years of age, oral copulation, sodomy, false imprisonment and molestation, according to the sheriff’s office statement.

Deputies said they also found numerous weapons.

"This has been the largest and most sophisticated bulk of weapons seized in recent Lake County sheriff’s office history," the sheriff's office said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had been investigating Balletto’s 680-acre property in Lakeport since December 2011, court documents showed.

Balletto and Pearmain pleaded not guilty last week to charges of federal conspiracy to distribute marijuana, using a minor in a drug operation and possession of a firearm to further drug trafficking.

Lake County Dist. Atty. Don Anderson said Friday his office initially filed its own criminal charges against Balletto and Pearmain. But after consulting with the U.S. attorney's office he dropped those charges until the federal case moves forward.

"We're going to hold back and let our victim recuperate and feel better about herself, and then look more into the sex crimes," he said.

Authorities seized more than 1,200 marijuana plants, guns and other items during their May 1 raid. But the most horrifying discovery was the metal box the girl told authorities she was kept in. She told police the men made her stay in it on two occasions for a total of three days, court records show.

Spray-painted on the outside was the first letter of the girl's name. Inside was a decal that "depicted an animal skull surrounding the shadow image of a human skull with the logo 'Bone Collector,' " according to the court documents.

The men put a hose through one of the holes to clean the girl and wash out the human waste inside, prosecutors alleged. Inside the box, investigators found human hair and a poem the girl had written about being held inside the box.

The men also shocked the girl with a cattle prod, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

A "rack" allegedly used for bondage and sex toys were found on the property. Authorities alleged in court papers that Balletto called the girl a "trouper" because she didn't scream when she was in the box.

Both men are being held without bail. The Los Angeles Police Department arrested a third man, Eric Edgar, on suspicion of sexual assault.


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