Esthela Clark, of Jacksonville, Florida, pleaded guilty to a single count of forced labor while appearing in federal court on Monday

By Chris Harris
March 29, 2017 05:02 PM
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This week, a Florida woman appeared in federal court and admitted she held a Mexican woman captive for more than three years — forcing her to perform housework while trying to impregnate her with her boyfriend’s semen.

Esthela Clark, 47, pleaded guilty to a single count of forced labor on Monday morning. As part of her plea, she admitted to a series of bizarre details in the case, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.

She faces 20 years in prison at her sentencing next month; PEOPLE has not been able to reach her or her attorneys for comment.

Here are five things to know about what happened.

1. Clark Used Syringes to Try to Impregnate Victim

Clark told investigators she paid “coyotes” $3,000 in 2012 to bring a 22-year-old woman across the border, court records show.

The victim was promised $4,000 to serve as a surrogate for Clark and her boyfriend, according to the records. The woman later told authorities that Clark’s fertilization efforts began a week into her stay.

Documents confirm that the woman said Clark tried to impregnate her with syringes filled with sperm from Clark’s boyfriend, which was retrieved from condoms.

According to the court filings, the woman also told investigators that Clark would sometimes inject her three to four times a day when she was ovulating.

Before crossing the border, the woman says Clark promised the surrogacy would take place “in a legal and medically supervised fashion” and that she would receive full medical care — but court documents indicate she never “visited a doctor.”

Esthela-Clark
Esthela Clark
| Credit: Facebook

2. Clark’s Victim Endured Emotional and Physical Abuse

When nine months of attempted conception failed, the woman said Clark became physical and psychologically abusive, and forced her to perform “domestic labor,” according to court documents.

The records reveal the labor included looking after Clark’s dog and cleaning her condominium, while Clark started rationing the victim’s food as she believed the victim was having trouble getting pregnant because of her weight.

The woman was fed only beans and lost 65 lbs., the documents state.

On at least five separate occasions, the woman was also beaten after refusing to comply with Clark’s wishes, according to the filings. She was also prohibited from changing her clothes “for long periods of time.”

3. Church Acquaintance Reported the Abuse

Prosecutors say the victim’s abuse lasted for more than two years — and only stopped after someone the victim knew through Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida, saw her “washing cars in very cold weather with insufficient clothing and found [that] behavior to be strange.”

That person also saw signs of physical abuse and documented the woman’s injuries before notifying police.

The same person attempted to aid the victim’s escape efforts several times, providing her with cash and a phone so she could call her family in Mexico. But court records show that Clark beat the woman after learning she had called home for help.

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Because the woman never conceived a child, Clark told her she needed to either pay back or work off the $3,000 spent to bring her to America, according to court documents Clark even seized the woman’s ID to prevent her from fleeing.

Clark also forced the woman “to have sex with two complete strangers through threats of force and coercion” and threatened to hurt her family if she ever attempted to escape, the documents state.

At one point, Clark forced the woman to work in local restaurants — but kept her earnings.

4. Clark Used Intimidation to Control Her Victim

Records show the victim told federal agents that Clark forbade her from leaving her one-bedroom condominium in Jacksonville. The victim was told the neighborhood was dangerous and that she “would most likely be killed” if she ventured outside.

Clark also told the woman that she read Tarot cards and told her that if she ever tried to hide anything, “Clark would find out,” the documents state.

In addition, according to court records, Clark threatened the woman’s family: She told her that if she tried to escape, “Clark would insure that her family and child in Mexico would be harmed.”

5. Clark Alienated the Victim from Her Family

Clark was indicted in 2015 on charges of bringing in and harboring aliens, sex trafficking of children, forced labor and furthering slave traffic, soon after investigators learned of the abuse, according to records.

Her guilty plea on Monday resolved those charges.

“Clark isolated the victim from her family,” prosecutors said in a statement. “She also attempted to collect from the victim’s family the cost she had paid to the ‘coyotes,’ with interest.”

At one point, Clark received a call from the woman’s brother, who was told she could not speak on the phone “because that caused stress which interfered with the attempts at insemination.”

According to court papers, Clark traveled to Mexico in 2014 to meet with the victim’s family. She told them the woman was no longer living with her after she found a new boyfriend in Florida.

Clark also told the woman’s family she “wanted nothing to do with” them.