Police: Woman held captive at Zebulon warehouse
Posted June 9
Updated June 10
Zebulon, N.C. — Police on Monday arrested a man who they suspect was holding a woman from Germany in involuntary servitude inside a secret room at a Zebulon warehouse.
Zebulon Police Chief Timothy Hayworth said that investigators went to the warehouse, at 511 Mack-Todd Road, Monday morning after receiving a tip from a man in Germany about his ex-wife being kidnapped.
Detectives arranged a meeting with the warehouse's tenant, Robert E. Whiteside, 45, and were able to interview the 34-year-old woman who arrived with him for the meeting.
Hayworth said she told police she had been in Zebulon since June 4 and that the man sexually assaulted her and also took her money, credit cards and phone.
"He would not let her leave, and he took away her ability to leave," Hayworth said.
Whiteside, whose address is listed on court records as 511 Mack-Todd Road, has been charged with human trafficking and assault by strangulation.
Hayworth said he expects more charges as the investigation moves forward.
Investigators spent several hours Monday at the warehouse, where they searched a cluttered outbuilding and found about 10 guns and pornography as well as what Hayworth described as a secret bedroom behind a closet wall.
He would not elaborate on other evidence inside the building.
The woman, who reportedly was able to send an email for help, has since been moved to safety, Hayworth said, and appeared to be in good health.
"She's ecstatic to be with us, very relieved," he said.
Hayworth said that Whiteside and the woman apparently met on a dating website where he allegedly had been advertising for a girlfriend or wife who was from Germany or Russia.
"She has been physically assaulted and put through some terrifying times with our suspect," he said. "We believe he made threats to her, stating he has killed other people in the past, and (he) let her believe her life was in danger."
Hayworth said that police have no reason, right now, to believe there are other victims but that police are looking into the statement. He noted that the investigation is still in its early stages and that more work is needed.
“We are actually going to bring out a cadaver dog – just to come out and do a search of the area – just to make sure there is nothing else," he said. "We have no reason to believe that, but we want to check everything while we are here on an active search warrant."
Whiteside runs a company from the warehouse, where he refurbishes bathtubs for hotels and apartment buildings.