Man who held women as sex slaves sentenced to 18 years to life

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A judge sentenced a retired handyman to 18 years to life in prison Tuesday, calling the defendant "a sick coward" and "an evil man" for keeping five women as sex slaves in a concrete bunker.

John Jamelske, 68, pleaded guilty last month to kidnapping five women and girls and holding them from 1988 to 2003 at his home in DeWitt, a Syracuse suburb.

None of the victims appeared in court for Jamelske's sentencing, but prosecutors read excerpts from statements each woman submitted to the court.

A 16-year-old victim wrote that she almost gave up hope as she was raped daily.

"Please lock him up and never allow him to perpetrate on any young, innocent girls again," she said. "He is an old, sick man, and he is never going to change. I hope you die in the cold, cement cell, like you wanted us to do."

Another woman, according to a statement by her attorney, wanted Jamelske "sentenced to the foulest dungeon in creation for all of eternity."

Onondaga County Judge Anthony Aloi ignored a plea for leniency from Jamelske's lawyer.

"You are a sick coward. You are an evil man," Aloi told Jamelske. "You are a kidnapper and rapist, a master manipulator of people and the truth, but your reign of terror is over."

"There is no doubt in my mind that you should die in prison for what you have done to these five women," the judge said.

Jamelske cried in court and apologized. "I'm sorry for what I did and how it affected everyone. God bless all of them."

Jamelske told authorities he began seeking out girls and women in 1988 after his wife became bedridden with cancer and was unable to satisfy his sexual urges. She died in 1999.

He was arrested in April after the teenager was able to sneak a phone call to her sister when Jamelske took her out on errands after six months of captivity.

After Jamelske's arrest, police identified four other women who said he abducted and raped them dating back to 1988. The victims ranged in age from 13 to 53 and were held captive from two months to three years.

They have said that Jamelske made them keep diaries detailing their sexual encounters, had them do senseless tasks and tricked them into believing others were involved, that they would be sold as slaves on the Internet and that they had no chance of escape.

The bunker -- which will be demolished next month -- consists of two rooms 12-feet-by-12-feet with 7-foot ceilings. It was accessible only through a 4-foot-square steel door in the basement wall.

Each count carried a maximum penalty of 25 years to life in prison, meaning Jamelske could have served up to 125 years behind bars if convicted at trial and sentences were combined.