No one — not neighbors, detectives or even a Mount Vernon police officer who delivered a court summons there only a few days ago — knew what was happening inside a mobile home in the small Indiana community of Stewartsville.
None knew the couple who lived there was holding 30-year-old Joelle Lockwood of Evansville against her will for nearly two months, forcing her to have sex with them and at times locking her in a wooden cage.
Lockwood, who was freed from her captivity by a visitor to the trailer, was reunited with her family on Saturday.
The couple, Ricky House Jr., 37, and Kendra Tooley, 44, are now facing charges of rape, kidnapping and criminal confinement in connection with Lockwood’s July 9 abduction and imprisonment.
While investigating House’s criminal background, the Evansville Courier & Press discovered the Posey County Sheriff’s Office had delivered a small claims court summons to House’s mobile home in person on Aug. 31.
Posey County Sheriff Greg Oeth wasn’t aware of the summons delivery when asked about it Monday. He said a Mount Vernon police officer works part time as a process server for the sheriff’s office.
Based off the court record that states the summons was delivered via “copy service,” Oeth said the officer likely knocked on House’s door, didn’t receive an answer, left a copy of the summons taped to the door or in the mailbox and then went on to the next home.
“The civil process comes in by the truck load. He walks out daily with a Rubbermaid tub full of them,” Oeth said.
It’s just another point that no one knew of the grave happenings investigators say were taking place in the mobile home, Oeth said.
Evansville Police Department detectives, who had been manning the case since July, had received dozens of tips and talked with numerous people connected to case, but House and Tooley were never mentioned during the investigation, said police spokesman Sgt. Jason Cullum.
Neighbors, too, were unsuspecting. Stewartsville is an unincorporated town three miles west of Poseyville.
“There were neighbors that knocked on their door and were giving them food, tomatoes and they were answering the door and receiving that stuff. Neighbors didn’t have any idea what was going on,” Oeth said.
Angelia Phillips lives across the street from House’s now empty trailer.
Standing on the front porch of her home, she summed up the community’s reaction after finding out Lockwood was in the home reportedly restrained by her neighbors.
“Absolutely stunned,” she said.
It’s a quiet area, where everyone knows each other, and kids play in the street, she said.
The news comes as an extra blow to the community, which is still reeling from a murder-suicide in April 2013.
In a home only yards away from House’s trailer, 33-year-old John Carney shot and killed his wife, 30-year-old Erica Davis, and then killed himself. The couple shared three kids, who were not home at the time.
“We’re just a community trying to heal,” Phillips said.