by Patrick H. Moore
Northern California marijuana growers take their trade seriously. They are often armed and can be cantankerous. But the child sex abuse imprisonment scandal that is rocking the northern counties is out of the norm. At least I hope it is. These are the facts:
Lake County residents Ryan Balletto, 30, and Patrick Pearmain, 24, sexually assaulted a 16-year-old Los Angeles girl on Balleto’s 680 acre property. They kept her locked in a metal box on the property for three days and — to add insult to injury — forced her to process marijuana for them.
This case is every parent’s worst nightmare. Your teenage daughter is lured, abducted, tricked and ultimately raped and imprisoned in a bizarre homemade jail. The victim might still be in her captors’ clutches was it not for the determined pursuit of an unidentified Los Angeles police detective who somehow tracked the girl to Balletto’s lair.
The L.A. detective called Lake County sheriff’s officials and asked them to look into it. The first trip out to Balletto’s property by Lake County deputies on April 29 turned up nothing. But the next day, the girl managed to call the deputies on a cellphone. She said she was “okay,” whatever that means, but more importantly she said she was with Balletto in Sacramento. A basic cellphone trace and she she and her captors were traced to a hotel in West Sacramento, where police found the girl in a room with Pearmain.
Police arrested them. They found the usual — the requisite marijuana, the prescription drugs, the condoms, and the not so usual — a pregnancy test. Law enforcement claims Pearmain had written out a script for the girl to read to the police over the phone.
The girl stated she was having consensual sex with both men; the officials noted such a state was not legally possible based on her age. She explained that Balletto and Pearmain were on a “mission” — a marijuana mission. According to the girl, the reason they were holding her prisoner was because she was so good at “trimming” or processing the weed for drying.
On May 1, authorities raided Balletto’s rural home.
On the rural property, which the girl knew as “the farm,” investigators found a metal box with holes in it. Spray painted on the outside was the first initial of the teenage girl’s name and 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.
Human hair was found inside, prosecutors said. The girl said she was kept in the box for a total of three days and was given water through a hose. The box was hoisted into the air and tilted at an angle so when water was poured inside it would wash the girl and clean human waste out of the box, court documents say.
The authorities also discovered a “poem signed by the girl inside describing life in the box.”
Needless to say, there was plenty of incriminating stuff on the property. The investigators found the sex toys and the torture rack — “a wooden-framed “rack” to hoist and immobilize people.” Law enforcement is convinced the rack was for sexual bondage and sadomasochism. There was blood on a white towel below the rack.
More than 1,200 marijuana plants were found on the property and promptly destroyed. There are disturbing indications that their may have been other victims in addition to the girl.
The authorities found a ponytail of human hair inside Balletto’s gun safe in his Lakeport property. There were also 17 guns and $4,000 in cash. Remarkably, Balletto’s girlfriend was staying there with their five children. There is no indication as yet whether Balletto’s girlfriend was aware of the sexual abuse and imprisonment that was taking place at the rural property.
* * * * *
If this case goes Federal, Balletto and Pearmain will be facing 10-year mandatory minimum sentences for just the weed. They have not been charged yet for the alleged sexual abuse of the teenager.
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