Michael Mendez, here in an undated photo provided by the New Jersey State Police, allegedly kept his 44-year-old girlfriend captive in a padlocked room. Police found the woman during a drug raid.
New Jersey state troopers say a woman may have been padlocked in the bedroom of her boyfriend's northern New Jersey home for as long as 10 years.
Members of the State Police Street Gang unit were searching the home in Paterson, N.J. for drugs on Thursday when they entered the locked bedroom in the third-floor walk-up and found Michael Mendez’s 44-year-old girlfriend.
There was a pail in the room, apparently used as a chamber pot. Police said the woman also had a television and a telephone inside her padlocked room, and Mendez would let her out of the room when he was home.
Neighbors in the public housing complex said they had no idea the woman was being held captive.
"That's something new to me," said Stephanie Ramos. "It's scary. It doesn't make sense, not coming from him."
"She came outside once in a blue," said another neighbor of Mendez's girlfriend. She was always with him, the neighbor said, "but they go to the car together sometimes."
Others said they sometimes saw the woman outside by herself, but only on rare occasions.
New Jersey State Police spokesman Brian Polite said investigators believe the woman was kept in the bedroom for extended periods of time for the last two years and up to 10 years.
State Police said they also found what they were looking for: 4,200 prescription pills worth $100,000 and $22,000 in cash.
Mendez has been charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment, among other crimes.
The woman is receiving a medical evaluation.
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