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Crime News

Weed Grower Who Imprisoned 15-Year-Old Girl In Metal Box And Sexually Abused Her Given 31-Year Sentence

“[Ryan Patrick] Balletto told her she was a ‘trooper’ because she didn’t scream inside the box,” investigators said of the girl who had been forced to work on Balletto's marijuana farm.

By Eric Shorey

A marijuana grower and dealer who kept a kidnapped teenager inside a metal lock box and sexually abused her has been sentenced to 31 years after pleading guilty to a host of charges.

Ryan Patrick Balletto, 36, admitted to marijuana trafficking, firearms possession and using a minor to violate drug laws this past December. The unnamed victim was freed in May 2013 following a raid of Balletto's property just outside of Clear Lake, California.

Balletto was sentenced Wednesday. Prosecutors had originally sought a much harsher punishment.

“The circumstances of this offense are among the most horrific of any case prosecuted in this District in recent memory,” they wrote in a statement, according to The Associated Press. They described Balletto's crime as the “sadistic physical, sexual, and psychological abuse of a fifteen year-old girl over a prolonged period of time.”

In a scene described by investigators as akin to the 1972 film "Deliverance," law enforcement officials found more than one thousand marijuana plants and trailers filled with workers and firearms during a sweep of the operation.

Ryan Balletto

But the most disturbing find was that of a child from Los Angeles County allegedly kept by Balletto and another man, 31-year-old Patrick Pearmain. She was locked in a metal box, repeatedly sexually victimized, and forced to work.

Balletto met the girl in Los Angeles and offered her a place to live, but instead forced her to work on his compound. She was attacked with a cattle prod, chained by the neck, and confined. Officers found a poem she wrote about being held inside the four feet long, two feet high, and two feet wide sized box.

“Balletto told her she was a ‘trooper’ because she didn’t scream inside the box,” investigators wrote in court documents.

Balletto had been in police custody since the 2013 arrest and will begin serving his sentence immediately.

Pearmain was sentenced to 12 and a half years in April. 

Ryan L. Spradlin, Homeland Security investigations special agent in charge in San Francisco and Northern California, decried the actions of Balletto and Pearmain.

“This case is an unfortunate example of how despicable criminals, like Balletto, will stop at nothing to cultivate an illegal harvest in the interest of gaining illicit profits while taking advantage of an innocent child to satisfy his perverse desires,” Spradlin said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Balletto's attorney, James Scott Thomson, has not offered a comment on the sentencing. 

The girl has since received mental health treatment outside the state, police say.