Missing Indiana Mom Joelle Lockwood Found Alive, Kept in Cage for 2 Months

Police say Joelle Lockwood was held captive by an acquaintance for two months

Photo: Courtesy Help Find Joelle

When Joelle Lockwood vanished July 9 from a friend’s house in Evansville, Indiana, her friends and family prayed that she would be found alive.

They got their wish. The 30-year-old mother of two escaped her captor Saturday night, nearly two months after she vanished without a trace.

“Joelle is found!!! She is alive and well,” a friend posted on the Help Find Joelle Facebook group. “She appreciates everyone’s time and energy. We are so happy she is found safe.”

But according to authorities, the last two months have been a living nightmare for Lockwood. After she left her friend’s house, police say, she ran into an old acquaintance, Ricky House Jr., whom she had met years earlier when she was in high school. House offered Lockwood a ride but suggested that she come to his mobile home first to meet his girlfriend.

“Once they arrived there, he forced her to stay and confined her,” Posey County Sheriff Gregory Oeth told the Indianapolis Star.

For 60 days, Lockwood was tied up and kept in a small cage, police say. Deputy Sheriff Tom Latham told the Associated Press that she was sometimes released from her cage and forced to cook and clean for House and his girlfriend, Kendra Tooley, 44. She was given little food and water. “It was pretty much modernized slavery in my eyes,” Latham said.

It finally came to an end Saturday night, when Tooley got a visit from her ex-husband, Ronald Higgs. Higgs says that Tooley told him about what they had done. “She slid over on the couch beside me and said, ‘I’ve got a girl back here in a cage,’ ” Higgs told WEHT News. “I said, ‘You got a girl back here in a cage? What are you talking about?’ ”

Higgs says he saw Lockwood and tried to rescue her, only to have House point a shotgun in his face. “He stuck that shotgun right here under my chin with his finger on the trigger,” Higgs told the news station. “He said, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ I said, ‘If you’re going to kill me you better do it now or I’m going to take this away from you and beat you to death with it.’ ” A struggle ensued, and Higgs emerged victorious. He led Lockwood out of the home to safety.

Tooley and House have been charged with criminal confinement, kidnapping and other felonies, according to the Associated Press. They were assigned public defenders in Posey Circuit Court and not guilty pleas were entered on their behalf.

Lockwood and another Indiana woman had both been missing for several weeks. Although there was speculation that the two cases were related, authorities now say there appears to be no connection between the two disappearances.

On Aug. 15, Kristy Kelley vanished after a night out with friends. Since then, no one has heard from the 27-year-old mother of two. “We have a renewed hope of finding Kristy,” her father, Todd Scales, wrote on the Help Find Kristy Kelley Facebook page. “With Joelle being found, it’s now our turn to find our daughter.”

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