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Woman testifies Modesto murder suspect held her captive

A woman today testified in Stanislaus County Superior Court that she was held captive inside a Kansas home 18 years ago by a Modesto man accused of killing his roommate and burying her in a Tuolumne County shallow grave.

Russell Todd Jones, 51, has been charged with slaying Dena Raley-McCluskey in October 1999 and burying her body on his parents’ property near Groveland. Authorities discovered Raley-McCluskey’s remains in 2007 and arrested Jones soon after.

Testimony in Jones’ trial began this morning with Rebecca Neil, 36, who was 17 years old when she started dating Jones in Kansas. When she turned 18 years old a few months later, Neil said she moved in with Jones into a small one-bedroom home and their relationship changed.

“(Jones) was very controlling,” Neil testified. “I wasn’t allowed to leave the residence without him.”

She was kept against her will inside the house, Neil said, and Jones’ dog kept her from leaving when Jones was gone. Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees showed a photo of Jones and the dog, which appeared to be an adult-size Doberman Pinscher. The dog was dark-colored and wearing a collar with spikes.

During cross-examination by Frank Carson, Jones’ defense attorney, Neil admitted the dog never bit her or attacked her and she wasn’t locked inside the home. Carson asked her why she didn’t open a window and try to escape or yell for help.

Neil testified she didn’t tell anyone, at that point, of her captivity or tried to escape, because Jones threatened “that if I left, he would kill my mom.” She went on to say Jones threatened to blow up her mom with a pipe-bomb he kept in a treasure chest at the home along with handcuffs and a sawed-off shotgun.

While Jones was gone, Neil testified the dog remained by the only door at the home. She said Jones commanded the well-trained dog to watch her.

If she tried to walk anywhere inside the small home besides the bathroom, “the dog would growl” at her, Neil testified. She said she had no telephone inside the house and was only allowed to go to the grocery store with Jones.

“I would sit on the bed all day,” Neil testified.

After two weeks of captivity, Neil testified, she bumped into a friend at the store and asked her to pick her up at Jones’ home later that night.

While Jones was repairing a car in the home’s driveway with his dog nearby, Neil said she left the home unnoticed and stayed at a friend’s home 27 miles away.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at (209) 578-2394.

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