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California man gets 22 years in keeping relative as sex slave

By Laila Kearney

MARTINEZ, California (Reuters) - A Northern California man who pleaded guilty to keeping a young female relative as a sex slave, repeatedly raping her over a 15-year period and forcing her to stay in a backyard shed, was sentenced on Tuesday to 22 years in state prison.

Prosecutors said Raul Ochoa, 52, of Richmond, began sexually abusing and strictly controlling the victim when she was 12, keeping her mostly locked in his home for more than a decade.

Ochoa pleaded guilty last month to one count of a lewd act on a child and two counts of forcible rape under a deal aimed at sparing the victim from testifying in court, Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Wagner said.

Ochoa, whose attorney Sung Ae Choi declined to comment on the case, will be eligible for parole after serving 85 percent of his sentence and will be required to register as a sex offender after his release, Wagner said.

The victim, now in her late 20s, has not been named and her exact relationship to Ochoa was not disclosed. But a prosecution spokeswoman read a letter from her to Ochoa in court, in which she said she was still haunted by memories of the abuse.

"I remember he would look at me with fearless eyes, without any compassion at all," the woman said of Ochoa. "He should have taken care of me, but he didn't."

The woman said that, since her escape, she had started a job and enjoyed socializing.

"I have friends who look out for me like you never did...I have fun," she said. "I know there's no one waiting outside of the bathroom for me."

Prosecutors said Ochoa rarely let the woman leave his side and timed her when she went to the bathroom. As a girl, she was home-schooled and she later worked from the house as a bookkeeper for Ochoa's landscaping company, they said.

Ochoa built a large shed in his backyard, where he had sex with the woman and sometimes forced her to stay, according to Wagner and the police.

Family members ultimately helped her escape from Ochoa's house in August 2012, when she was 27, said Richmond Police Sergeant Nicole Abetkov. She hid in the nearby city of Berkeley for three days until she reported the abuse to police, Abetkov said.

It was unclear how much the woman's family members, who also lived with Ochoa, knew about the abuse and why they didn't report it sooner, Wagner said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)

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