A former Texas death row inmate freed nearly 30 years ago is accused of keeping a woman in his home in western Colorado for months and repeatedly raping her.

"She's been through hell and back," Sgt. Henry Stoffel of the Mesa County Sheriff's Office said on Thursday.

According to the arrest affidavit, Claude Lee Wilkerson, 61, kept the woman -- with the help of a 14-year-old runaway teenager -- chained up in his home in Gateway for months. Gateway is about 50 miles from Grand Junction.

"It's a very small rural community, everybody’s close-knit, everybody knows everybody. It's definitely a place to hideaway and be left alone," Stoffel said.

The 26-year-old victim was homeless and had been held captive at Wilkerson's home about four months.

According to the runaway, who told investigators how she helped tie up the victim, they used "diesel engine cleaner" to try to make the victim pass out.

“She [the victim] said he claimed to be a Shaman numerous times. He also would often claim that he was a serial killer. She said because of the way he chained her and treated her, she believed it to be true that he was a serial killer,” the affidavit states.

According to the affidavit, “Claude Wilkerson has kept her chained to the bed since October. [The victim] said her legs remained chained even when she wasn’t chained to the bed leg. She described that she was treated like a pet since that time and would be rewarded for good behavior.”

While chained up, she was repeatedly forced to have sex with him. The victim reported she didn't fight off sex.

According to the arrest affidavit, the victim, who had a warrant for her arrest, told investigators that she "kinda wanted to be arrested on my warrant." Deputy Parker said he told her he was more than willing to give her a ride back to Grand Junction if she wanted to go anywhere else. She then asked him again, "Can you arrest me on my warrant please?"

Deputies told Wilkerson they were taking the victim and needed her ID and social security card. Wilkerson gave them the victim's ID, which he kept in his wallet, but could not find her social security card.

When deputies talked to the victim she seemed withdrawn and nervous about talking to them.

According to the affidavit, the victim told deputies that she "had only been allowed to go out into the yard a few times and to the Gateway Store twice."

Wilkerson was arrested in February and is being held the Mesa County Jail.

Victor T. Prosser, a former neighbor, told 9Wants to Know that he did not know Wilkerson very well.

"He was kind of a recluse," Prosser said. "I'd seen him on the street."

Prosser told 9Wants to Know he recently saw Wilkerson with a young girl.

"She was with him all the time," he said.

Wilkerson once did work for Prosser, installing a window in his home.

"I talked to him sometimes on the street. It's sure a shock to me what's been going on," Prosser said.

Prosser usually saw him in the local general store, getting a cup of coffee.

9Wants to Know has learned Wilkerson purchased his property at 451 Foy Road in May 2007. The property includes 0.6 of an acre and an 899-square-foot house that was built in 1916.

Wilkerson's property at 451 Foy Road
Wilkerson's property at 451 Foy Road

Mesa County Sheriff's Sgt. Henry Stoffel confirmed Wilkerson spent four years on death row before being freed from Texas state prison in 1983 after a judge threw out his confession because he didn't waive his rights. He was one of four men arrested in 1978 in connection to the deaths of three people during a jewelry store robbery.

Wilkerson's arrest record goes back more than 40 years. According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, he has four previous arrests in the state:

  • In 1974 in Grand Junction in a burglary case
  • In 1987 in Westminster
  • In 1988 in Adams County on allegations of drunken driving
  • In 1991 in Denver in an incident of property damage and criminal mischief.

Wilkerson, who is being held on a $1 million bond, will be represented by a public defender.

"At this point these are only allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent. However, the allegations that have been made in the case are extremely serious and extremely aggravated. While the investigation is not complete at this time, it is clear already that the DA's office will vigorously prosecute the case without regard to resources," Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said in a statement provided to 9NEWS.