Ronald Higgs met Joelle Lockwood for the first time Thursday evening when he went to visit his ex-wife Kendra Tooley and her companion Ricky House at this trailer in Stewartsville.
"She (Tooley) slid over on the couch beside me and said 'I've got a girl back here in a cage.' I said 'you got a girl back here in a cage? What are you talking about,'" questioned Higgs.
He says the girl in the cage was Joelle Lockwood. Higgs says it was two and a half feet tall, stuffed in a room, hidden from plain view.
"No food, no water, nowhere to use the bathroom," said Higgs.
Higgs says when he first saw Joelle she was only wearing a t-shirt and a dog collar with a rope tied to it, being treated apparently like a slave.
"This just isn't adding up. When she cooked all of our meals she said 'can I have something to eat?' They said 'if there's something left you can have something to eat.'"
Higgs says on Friday night Joelle made her plea for freedom.
"She says 'please don't leave here without me.' I said 'what's the matter?' She says 'I've been here for over 60 days and they put me in that cage.'"
It was then Higgs knew Joelle's shot at freedom was in his hands.
"I didn't really know what I could do because I'm nowhere near the man I used to be, but I'm not leaving this house without her. I don't care what I have to do. She's coming home."
Higgs says initially he tried to buy Joelle's freedom, but couldn't make a deal. He realized force was the only way and it was at that point he found out the alleged sinister reason for Joelle's capture.
"The whole time during it all they was talking about a baby. 'She's not leaving here until she has the baby. I'm not selling her, you're not taking her, you're not doing nothing.' She told me Ricky was raping her, making her have oral sex. Kendra can't have more children and Ricky doesn't have any children of his own. I hate to say this to the public or even her even hearing it, but I think they were just going to have a baby and we would never see her again."
Higgs says he tried to take Joelle out of the trailer, but was stopped by Ricky and his shotgun.
"He stuck that shotgun right here under my chin with his finger on the trigger. He said 'I'm going to kill you.' I said if you're going to kill me you better do it now or I'm going to take this away from you an beat you to death with it."
Higgs says Ricky lowered his gun and a fight started. Higgs says he was able to headbutt Ricky and fend him off. But Joelle was not faring as well.
"Joelle was sitting in the floor crying, naked, with Kendra beating on her. Just beat her down to the ground, took her clothes off of her."
Higgs says while Ricky retreated to another room in the trailer he saw his opportunity to escape with Joelle. Higgs says he convinced Kendra that if she let Joelle leave he would not go to the police.
"I actually think they believed I wasn't going to do anything about it."
Higgs says he left with Joelle and took her to his home in Evansville. The first thing Joelle asked for was a shower. After getting cleaned up Joelle was reunited with her family outside of her hero's home.
"I'm 61 years old and I don't even cry at funerals, but I busted out crying like a baby."
And as for the accused, Higgs has a recommendation for a fitting punishment.
"I told the police last night I hope you all have some real small cells. That's where they need to spend the rest of their lives, in a real small cell."
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