Rope, sex toys, other items seized from Zebulon warehouse
Posted June 12
Zebulon, N.C. — Investigators seized firearms, pornography, rope, sex toys and other items from a Zebulon warehouse where they say a man held a woman captive for several days, according to a search warrant describing the case as a "human trafficking/slavery case."
Police became involved Monday after the 34-year-old woman from Germany sent an email to her estranged husband asking for money, and he became concerned and contacted authorities.
Officers were able to link the email to Robert Edward Whiteside, 45, who runs a refurbishing business from the warehouse, at 511 Mack-Todd Road. When police went to meet him, the woman was with him. They questioned the two separately and arrested Whiteside.
Whiteside, who was in jail under a $750,000 secured bond Thursday, is charged with second-degree sex offense, sexual servitude of an adult victim and two counts of assault by strangulation.
Police searching the warehouse Monday found a "hidden room disguised as a closet wall" where Whiteside had been living and the door could be locked from the inside with bolts "so as to appear that the room did not exist," according to the search warrant, which was made public Thursday.
Investigators found multiple loaded firearms as well as knives, a passport, airline receipts, prescription pills, a white rope, a purple whip, a camera, computer equipment and what was described as "unknown liquid in vials."
The warrant also stated that Whiteside admitted to both strangling the woman and hitting her with a bottle.
Appearing in court Tuesday on some of the charges he faces, Whiteside told District Judge Vince Rozier that the case was a misunderstanding.
"I think he is shocked that somebody who visited him a few days led to criminal charges against him," Whiteside's attorney, Robert Padovano said Thursday after his client appeared in court on the sex offense charge.
Zebulon Police Chief Timothy Hayworth said Whiteside and the woman met on a dating website and that she traveled from Germany to meet him.
The woman, who arrived in town June 4, told police that Whiteside took all of her money so that she couldn't leave the country and that he also requested more money from her husband.