Zebulon man arrested on charges of holding German woman captive in warehouse

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Robert Whiteside has been charged with human trafficking and assault by strangulation, but he could face more charges. (WTVD)

Authorities in Wake County are investigating a bizarre kidnapping case after police found a woman who was being held against her will for almost a week.

The incident first came to light Monday morning when Zebulon police received a call from a man in Germany who said he believed his estranged 34-year-old wife was being held against her will somewhere in the North Carolina town.

Following an investigation, police singled out a warehouse in the 500 block of Mack Todd Road as a possible location where the victim could be. When police contacted the man who was renting the warehouse, which is not visible from the street, 45-year-old Robert Whiteside agreed to meet authorities at the scene.

When Whiteside arrived, the woman was inside a vehicle with him. Police were able to separate the pair, and authorities said the victim was "very excited to see police and be away from the suspect," because she had been kept "within arms length" from the suspect the entire time. They said the victim came to U.S. willingly, but did not know what she was getting involved in.

Officials said the woman, whose name is not being released, told them she had been held against her will, physically and sexually assaulted, and stripped of her finances since arriving in the U.S. on June 4 after the pair met online. She was in good health and was taken to a safe house.

When authorities searched the warehouse, they said they discovered a secret bedroom, along with ropes, but no chains. They also said during a news conference Tuesday that it appeared Whiteside was living inside the building where he also operated a bathtub refinishing company.

Whiteside has been charged with human trafficking and assault by strangulation. Wednesday he was also charged with second degree sexual offense.

Officers seized pornographic material, documents, firearms, ammunition, computers, and electronic storage devices from inside the warehouse.

While there was no evidence of other victims, the Zebulon Police Department is currently investigating every possible scenario since Whiteside has traveled overseas to multiple countries in the past and has been linked to several previous addresses in North Carolina, and one in Virginia.

Police have information that the suspect dated women from other countries but no indications he held other women captive.

Whiteside appeared in court Tuesday and said the case is not what it appears to be.

"I'm not a troublemaker type person. And this is really kind of a misunderstanding. And I don't have a record of this type of thing," he said.

Whiteside said he wants to hire his own attorney to fight the charges against him, but he cannot do that unless he can go get out of jail and return to work.

In response to his pitch, the judge agreed to lower Whiteside's bond from $250,000 to $90,000. However, it is not clear if he can make that bond.

At last report, Whiteside remained in jail.

Anyone with information about this incident or other incidents is asked to call police at (919)366-CRIM(E) or (919)823-1818.

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