Woman: Not locked up against my will
NEW YORK (CNN) — A woman who New Jersey State Police said may have been padlocked in a bedroom for extended periods of time claimed Tuesday the charges against her boyfriend are "ridiculous."
Nancy Rodriguez Duran, 44, told CNN affiliate News 12 New Jersey that Michael A. Mendez had not mistreated her.
"I love him just like he loves me and I don't think a man that loves is going to put his woman in a room for 10 years. That's just ridiculous," Duran told News 12.
New Jersey State Police accused Mendez, 42, of kidnapping and the false imprisonment of Duran.
Mendez, whom police called an alleged Latin Kings gang member, pleaded not guilty to those and other charges Tuesday.
The plea came after the gang unit of the state police executed a warrant at Mendez's residence in Paterson last Thursday in search of drugs and ties to the violent Latin Kings gang, authorities said in a press release Monday.
Detectives discovered more than 4,000 prescription pills "valued at more than $100,000" marijuana, and more than $22,000 in cash, state police said.
But in what authorities called "a strange twist," detectives also found Duran locked in a small bedroom with a padlock on the outside of the door.
The statement went on to say, "information developed during the investigation indicates that Mendez held his girlfriend in the bedroom for extended periods of time over the past two years and possibly longer."
Duran, who refers to Mendez as her husband, adamantly defended him, saying, "He's my husband. He doesn't mistreat me, he doesn't abuse me and he doesn't hit me."
Duran said she asked Mendez to lock her in the bedroom because building maintenance would regularly enter the apartment unannounced, "They just walk in. They don't ring the doorbell. Yes, I wanted to be there, I asked him to do it...because I was still in bed."
Asked to respond to Duran's comments, police Sgt. Brian Polite said, "The charges were filed based on the evidence collected as a result of the investigation."
Mendez faces numerous charges, including two counts of criminal restraint and possession of controlled dangerous substances with intent to distribute.
When asked specifically about the validity of the drug charges, Duran says all 4,000 prescription pills were legal.
"Everything they took was his prescription with his name on it," she said. "He takes over 21 prescriptions."
Mendez is being held on $1 million bail.
His attorney, John Somohano, did not immediately respond to a message left by CNN.
Polite said he could not comment further on the investigation.