MAY - Week 1
||Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.
We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
South Gate police seek suspect in sexual assaults
May 7, 2011
South Gate police are searching for a man suspected in a series of sexual attacks against girls and young women walking alone, including a 10-year-old who was molested on school grounds after class.
Police released a composite sketch of the suspect who allegedly accosted the schoolgirl Friday. They described him as a Latino male, about 18 years old, wearing a black shirt, black cap, dark pants and riding a dark bicycle.
The same suspect is believed to be responsible for groping a woman on the morning of April 26 in a residential area near the 3400 block of Liberty Boulevard. The victim, whose age was not released, told police that he had been following her. She said that when she made eye contact, he ran up to her, grabbed her and groped her, and then ran off when she resisted and yelled out.
Police said there have been reports of similar incidents with girls and young women that occurred throughout April, with the victims ranging from 8 to 28 years old.
Anyone with information about the attacks is asked to contact the South Gate Police Department at (323) 563-5436 .
Ghastly: Trafficking in girls
Horribly, multitudes of teen-age American girls -- mostly runaways from troubled homes -- are scooped up by pimps who use brutality and drugs to turn them into $1,000-per-night money machines.
Human slavery reports mostly focus on deceived girls from Russia or southeast Asia who are sucked into the sex trade -- but just as many U.S. victims can be found in backstreet bordellos and on street corners, new disclosures say.
Nobody knows exactly how many there are. Nathan Wilson of a Washington rescue operation speculates that 1.6 million teens, including foreign imports, are kept half-captive in U.S. prostitution. Other experts make lower estimates of 100,000 to 300,000. Numerous states are passing laws to break the sex traffic and rehabilitate the girls. Nonprofit groups are creating shelters where victims can flee to safety. The FBI prosecutes pimps under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times crusades against female trafficking worldwide. He once bought two girls from a foreign brothel for $150 and $200 to set them free. He and his wife have written a new book, Half the Sky , about oppression of women. Stunningly, Kristof told a college assembly that sex trafficking of girls now is 10 times larger than the slave trade was before the Civil War.
Last week, Kristof wrote that America's worst offense isn't "Mexican or Korean or Russian women smuggled into brothels in the United States.... The biggest trafficking problem involves homegrown American runaways." He outlined this scenario:
A 13-year-old girl feuds with her single mother, and the mom's boyfriend makes passes at her. The child "runs away to the bus station, where the only person on the lookout for girls like her is a pimp. He buys her dinner, gives her a place to stay, and the next thing she knows, she is earning him $1,500 a day."
Some of the confused girls think they're in love with their pimps. Others are beaten, plied with narcotics and threatened with weapons to keep them "turning tricks." They're exploited as moneymaking objects.
Recently, several young Manhattan prostitutes were found murdered on Long Island, evidently victims of a serial killer. The ugly case spurred calls for America to join other Western democracies in requiring that hookers be licensed, taxed, examined regularly for disease, and required to work in safe settings. The licensing process would thwart pimps who victimize underage girls.
Prostitution is a disturbing topic that most Americans won't face. But it's a reality that should be addressed with intelligence. Treating the girls as victims, not criminals, would be a wise step.
'Remember Nhu' fights child sex abuse in Asia
Thai girl's plight inspires Ohioans to act
By DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
When Nhu Da Than was a 7-year-old Vietnamese refugee living along the Mekong River in Cambodia, she got her grandmother's permission to attend a nearby school run by a Christian church.
"My teacher helped me to study the Bible every day. Then I believed in Jesus Christ," she said.
At age 12, her family went through financial difficulties. To pay off debts for money she had borrowed to feed the family, Nhu's grandmother sold her to a human trafficker for $300. The girl was raped and sexually abused for three days and then returned to the family.
"At that time, I believed God did not love me anymore because of my sin," Nhu said in a video statement.
Afterward, "I was very sad," she said. "I did not want to eat or talk to anyone. I could no longer smile. At night, I would cry and ask God, 'Why did you make me have this pain? Why did you break my heart? If I did not know you, I could understand. But I know you. I love you. I follow you. I talk with you. I do everything for you. But since this happened to me, please let me be the last girl this happens to.'?"
Nhu's tragic story inspired an Ohio couple to start an international nonprofit Christian ministry called ''Remember Nhu,'' whose stated purpose is "to prevent children from entering the sex trade by meeting the physical, emotional, education, and spiritual needs of potential victims."
The couple, Carl and Laura Ralston of Akron, sold their insurance business in 2004 to start Remember Nhu, a ministry that now operates six homes in five Asian nations that provide housing, food, education, and vocational training to more than 250 orphans and other children at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking.
Mr. Ralston said the name of the ministry came to him in a moment of divine inspiration after hearing Nhu's story. He said God whispered those two words to him after he prayed for direction.
Elsie Kizer McCombs, a Toledo native who oversees Remember Nhu's two homes in northern Thailand, was in Toledo this week to speak at area churches and to raise awareness and support for the ministry.
She said the strategy is to reach potential victims before it's too late.
"For every girl that is rescued, we can help 10 to 15 from becoming victims," she said. "The girls that are rescued have been so damaged that there is a 70 percent chance they will end up back in trafficking."
Nhu, who turns 22 this month, worked for several years as a supervisor at Agape Hair & Nails beauty salon in Cambodia. In addition to styling hair and painting nails, she trained and oversaw the staff of 10 -- all girls who had been taken in by Remember Nhu.
The salon was opened for a total cost of less than $20,000, Mr. Ralston said, and the workers made double the normal Cambodian wages.
"It keeps them safe from being sold," he said in a ministry-produced DVD.
"In Thailand, sex is for sale," said Ms. McCombs, 36, a 1992 graduate of Toledo Christian High School. She said the Asian nation long has been a tourist haven because, unlike surrounding countries such as Laos and Myanmar (Burma), Thailand has not been ruled by a repressive regime and has kept an open-door policy to visitors.
About a third of the people who pay for sex with minors are nationals, one third are police and government officials, and one third are tourists, most of them from the United States and Korea, she said.
Ms. McComb felt a calling to the mission field when she was 12, she said, but struggled with the idea of living overseas.
After receiving a degree in early childhood education from Toccoa Falls College in Georgia, Ms. McCombs worked full-time in the children's department at a startup inner-city Toledo church, NorthPoint (since renamed That Neighborhood Church).
She and her husband, Michael, a York, Pa., native, had taken a short-term mission trip to Thailand in the mid-1990s and decided in August, 2005, to serve as overseas missionaries for their denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The couple and their two sons, now ages 14 and 11, moved to Thailand in 2007, where they studied the language for 1 1/2 years while looking for a ministry to join.
"We wanted to work in a compassion ministry, and we prayed where God could use us," Ms. McCombs said.
They were drawn to Remember Nhu.
"We were aware of the trafficking problem and Remember Nhu was touching people's hearts," she said.
The McCombs, as with all of Remember Nhu's staff, raise their own financial support from churches and individuals, which means that all money donated to the organization goes directly to meet the children's needs.
Remember Nhu also has a sponsorship program where donors can support a child for $60 a month.
The ministry takes in children who don't have an education, are orphaned, whose parents have AIDS or are HIV positive, or who live in a single-parent home with financial pressures.
"You look for those factors. There's a 95 percent rate that they will end up being sold into sex trafficking," Ms. McComb said.
They never turn a child away, she said, although sometimes they find other ministries to help.
The children at Remember Nhu's homes in Chang Mai range from 5 to 18 years old, she said.
One 5-year-old girl was abandoned in a Buddhist monastery. An 18-year-old girl with only a first-grade education was under pressure to either get married or go into prostitution.
"We give them a safe place to live," Ms. McCombs said.
Dave and Molly Thompson of South Toledo have been supporters of Remember Nhu and other Christian ministries in southeast Asia and have made several trips to the region. In 2007, they met Nhu and the grandmother who had sold her to a sex trafficker. Mr. Thompson said the grandmother had been a devout Buddhist but has since converted to Christianity.
More information on Remember Nhu is available at RememberNhu.com
ICE: Fugitive Trafficked Underage Girls Online
Federal and local law enforcement need your help to locate and capture Eric Bell, an accused sex trafficker and alleged producer of child pornography.
On Dec. 1, 2009, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office child protection investigators recovered one of Bell's underage sex trafficking victims who told them her horrific story.
The girl told police that Bell used his prostitutes to lure her to his residence, introducing himself as “Santana.” When she arrived at Bell's residence, he asked her to take off her clothes, while photographing her the entire time. Cops say he then raped her. Bell uploaded the digital images to sites like backpage.com and craigslist.com, advertising the underage victims as “escorts,” according to police.
The trail only picked up from there. Through more interviews with former sex trafficking victims and warranted house searches, agents from the ICE, FBI, and detectives from the Clearwater Area Human Trafficking Task Force unearthed Bell's operation to sexually exploit underage girls for profit – an operation that cops say began back in December 2008.
And cops say his ventures were successful: Just a few hours after uploading the photos, Bell would immediately get calls from prospective clients.
Caught On Camera
Police learned from the girls that all of the alleged sex acts took place in the bedroom of Bell's house – where a video camera was placed above a closet door, constantly on record. The camera was also linked up to a desktop computer in the adjacent room with live feed of events on the monitor.
According to cops, some girls performed 15 to 20 sexual acts a day, charging up to $200 per act -- with all of the proceeds going to Bell. Additionally, some of the girls say Bell raped them too. Police estimated that Bell earned up to $50,000 from each girl within two to three weeks.
Bell allegedly made it clear to his victims that they had to get as much money as possible from their “johns.”
And if they didn't, the consequences could come back to bite them: Cops learned that Bell owned two dogs, a pit bull and Rottweiler, and threatened to sic his dogs on the underage girls if they did not charge enough money.
Working Operation with 'Pocahontas'
According to testimony from his alleged victims, Bell worked his operation with a woman named Neang Prom, who went by the name “Kim” or “Pocahontas.” She was also responsible for listing escort postings on the internet and “dressing up” the underage girls, making them look nice for the johns.
On Dec. 11, 2009, analysts used Prom's nicknames to search for phone numbers on craigslist.com and backpage.com escort postings. Their search eventually led them to Neang Prom's profile page as "Kim" on MySpace, who had “Santana” listed as a friend. Using facial recognition technology, cops identified Kim as Neang Prom and were finally able to locate Eric Bell, who was known as Prom's, “associate."
In July 2010, federal agents obtained a search warrant for Bell's residence and seized numerous items, including all electronic media. They found pornographic and sexually explicit images of female minors on the computer and digital camera.
Immediately following the search warrant, Prom was detained for questioning. What she told police about Bell's alleged sex trafficking was almost identical to the testimony given by the female minor victims.
Eric Bell is considered armed and dangerous, as he's owned several handguns and rifles. He's known to run with gangs, and is a big fan of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bell owned a trailer that was plastered with Bucs-branded items.
Bell may still be in the Tampa area, but he also has ties to New York.
If you have any information regarding Bell's whereabouts, please call our Hotline at 1-800-CRIME-TV . You can remain anonymous.
L.A. County sheriff's deputy accused of having sex with teenager
May 6, 2011
A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy has been arrested and charged with engaging in sex acts with a teenage relative, a district attorney's office spokeswoman said Friday.
Orlando Denison, 34, was arrested Thursday by Long Beach police and pleaded not guilty Friday afternoon, spokeswoman Shiara Dávila-Morales said. Denison is charged with two felony counts of oral copulation of a person under 18 involving a 16-year-old girl in July 2010, Dávila-Morales said.
Superior Court Judge James D. Otto set Denison's bail at $50,000, Dávila-Morales said. The charges carry a maximum sentence of three years and eight months in prison.
Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said Denison joined the department in April 2007 and worked at the Pitchess Detention Center's south facility in Castaic. The department has begun the process of relieving Denison without pay, he said.
Montclair College Prep teacher arrested in sexual relationship with student
May 5, 2011
A teacher at Montclair College Prep in Van Nuys was arrested Thursday on suspicion of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl, police said.
Gazi Kabir allegedly went to the girl's home periodically when she was alone, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Kabir could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Kabir worked in the social studies department and was appointed last year, the school said on its website.
Anyone with information is asked to call LAPD detectives at (818) 374-0040 .
O.C. anesthesiologist charged in sex assult of two unconscious patients
May 5, 2011
An Orange County anesthesiologist charged with sexually assaulting two female patients while they were unconscious is expected to be arraigned Friday.
Yashwant Balgiri Giri, 58, who worked at Placentia-Linda Hospital, is charged with molesting a 16-year-old girl while a nurse was preparing surgery tools and had her back turned, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.
The nurse saw the incident and reported it to hospital officials. Giri was also allegedly caught fondling a 36-year-old woman during surgery.
The alleged assaults occurred in 2009 and in March.
Prosecutors said he also worked at Lakewood Regional Medical Center,, Anaheim Regional Medical Center and West Anaheim Medical Center.
Anyone with information is asked to call Supervising Investigator Lour Gutierrez at (714) 347-8794 .
3 Ex-Students Get Probation in Bullying Linked to a Suicide
By ERIK ECKHOLM
Criminal charges against students in the bullying of a 15-year-old girl in South Hadley, Mass., who hanged herself last year, were largely resolved Thursday when three former students were placed on probation and a statutory rape charge against another was dropped.
The case involving the death of the girl, Phoebe Prince, drew wide attention when prosecutors brought felony charges against six students at South Hadley High School, saying that they had tormented Phoebe, a newly arrived Irish immigrant, after she briefly dated the two male defendants.
In emotional hearings on Thursday in Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court in Hadley, three of the former students admitted that they had harassed Phoebe. The three, Sharon Chanon Velazquez, Flannery Mullins and Ashley Longe, each “admitted to sufficient facts” on misdemeanor charges of harassment or violating civil rights. If they satisfy their probation, the charges will be dismissed and they will not have criminal records.
On Wednesday, another former student, Kayla Narey, agreed to a similar deal. A fifth, Sean Mulveyhill, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal harassment and was sentenced to one year of probation.
At a hearing on Wednesday, Phoebe's mother, Anne O'Brien, cast particular blame on Mr. Mulveyhill, accusing him of behaving in a “predatory” manner toward her daughter — dating Phoebe while he had another girlfriend and then dropping her and encouraging his female friends to humiliate her.
The defendants “have accepted responsibility for their actions and admitted that they engaged in criminal conduct toward Phoebe Prince in the weeks, days and hours before she took her life,” the regional district attorney, David Sullivan, said at a news conference on Thursday.
The sixth former student, Austin Renaud, was charged with statutory rape for having sex with Phoebe when she was 15 and he was 18. The charge was widely criticized as too harsh, and Mr. Sullivan said it was being dismissed “upon the request of the O'Brien-Prince family and in the interests of justice.”
Court documents revealed that Phoebe had a history of depression and suicide attempts, which defense lawyers said might complicate prosecution of the students for the most serious felony charges, which tried to link the harassment to her death.
In tearful statements to the court, Ms. O'Brien described her daughter's final text messages, which indicated that in her last weeks she lived in fear and despair over Mr. Mulveyhill's betrayal. “I think Sean condoning this is one of the final nails in my coffin,” she wrote in one.
Ms. O'Brien said that she was satisfied with the outcome because the students had acknowledged their cruel behavior.
Despite the light sentences, Mr. Sullivan said that the prosecution had sent an important message. “These cases, he said, signify “that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated in our schools.”
Decriminalizing Victims Proposed to Crack-Down on MN Sex Trafficking
by Jacob Kittilstad
FOX 21 NEWS
DULUTH-100,000 children are sexually exploited each year in the U.S according to conservative estimates from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
They say it is because of human trafficking.
On Thursday local authorities met to announce they back a new strategy to drastically cut those numbers down.
Prostitution is an established epidemic in the Northland.. Fed by sex trafficking, concerned groups say it thrives in the isolation of its victims.
"They're threatened, beaten, raped, forced onto drugs, or psychologically manipulated,” Sherry Sanchez-Tibbets, Executive Director of the American Indian Community Housing Organization said.
"The crime becomes more horrendous when we realize the average age into prostitution is 12,” Sanchez-Tibbets said.
Anna Donnelly from the Advocates for Human Rights says it gets sadder.
"A child is only likely to survive five to seven more years and she is likely to be forced to have sex with over 2,000 men each year,” Donnelly said.
But victims rarely step forward because they are fearful of punishment, Donnelly said.
According to current state law the kids are not only considered maltreated minors. They are also called juvenile delinquents.
"We weren't always looking beyond just that arrest,” Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said of prostitution enforcement 10-15 years ago. “And now it's becoming more and more apparent that a lot of these women are being trafficked for money. It's a business."
According to the St. Louis County Sheriff, it is a business nationally taking in $32 billion a year placing the unlawful trade second only to illegal drugs.
But the Minnesota legislature has a new proposal to classifying sexually exploited children as crime victims and not criminals.
"It's a legislative act which I really think is an act of love,” St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin said.
Currently St. Louis County does not prosecute young girls who sell their bodies within the district. If the proposed legislation goes through, Minnesota will become only the fifth state in the nation to make this the plan law.
"That's the problem. If we can show some support we can target the people who are hurting, who are exploiting the children in the community,” Rubin said.
The Minnesota bills are moving forward in the legislature. Supporters, however, say they fear their efforts could get stalled as legislators tries to solve a $5 billion deficit.
Human trafficking victims trapped between law and lawless
by Sarah Forgany
SAN ANTONIO -- It's hard to imagine that even today, some people are being held as slaves. But it's happening in places you would least expect, in neighborhoods and businesses. It's happening to women, girls and boys who are forced into a merciless life of sex slavery every day.
A 40-year-old mother says she was made to live just that kind of life.
"One simple rape can make you feel it's better to be dead than think the rest of your life you were raped by different men," says the woman.
We'll call her 'Jane' since she doesn't want to reveal her identity.
Jane says she was forced to have sex with strange men repeatedly.
She arrived in San Antonio several years ago from Honduras as a 33-year-old single mother. The only thing she wanted was to provide for her children, but instead, she says, she found herself trapped between the law and the lawless.
"It's easy to make you fear that you're going to lose everything that you have accomplished by coming here. I was afraid," Jane said.
Jane says she was lured by a young, attractive woman in her 30's, but that friendship was short lived.
"She kidnapped me. She threw me in this room with someone who's naked," said Jane.
That was the first time Jane recalls being raped. She says the woman took her to a house on the west side of San Antonio, locked her up, and threatened to turn her over to immigration authorities, even hurt her child, if she didn't do as she was told.
According to Jane, the threats and forced sex lasted weeks, as the woman and her trafficking ring collected thousands of dollars from rich businessmen.
Jane's horrifying story is only one of thousands emerging from a multi-billion dollar business.
"This is the vilest of crimes because it takes away human dignity, repeatedly," State Senator Leticia Van de Putte says.
Van de Putte has been a tireless voice in the fight against the sex trade, a cruel world where a victim can make more than a $100,000 for her pimp every year, and the younger the girl, the higher the price.
"What we have to make sure of is that the shackles that are put on our women and children and those that are victims, are taken off," said Van de Putte.
Human trafficking victims have many faces. All too often they are children and teens who run away from broken homes. Traffickers prey on their vulnerability and coerce them into prostitution.
Nearly 200,000 victims travel through Texas every year, with the I-10 corridor serving as one of the main routes for human traffickers in the country.
"What we want to do is make sure human traffickers know that Texas is closed for their seedy business," said the senator.
That closure means the introduction to unprecedented human trafficking laws in Texas like Van de Putte's Senate Bill 24.
The law makes prostitution of a child a first degree felony, allows for an automatic life sentence for subsequent convictions, and requires a human trafficker to register as a sex offender.
But, while this new law may be a milestone in combating human trafficking, many challenges still lie ahead.
"It's not as cut-and-dry as robberies, and it involves many moving pieces," said an undercover detective with the Bexar County Human Trafficking Task Force.
The detective told KENS 5 they investigate several human trafficking cases every month, but it often takes years to build one case before it has a chance in the courtroom.
"We have to build a case from the ground up to verify any information we've gotten from victims," he says.
To this day, Jane's case remains under investigation. The pain is still vividly etched on her face with wounds that she says will never heal.
"I don't want anyone else to go through that, to have someone raping you. It's horrible," said Jane.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked, you are urged to call law enforcement immediately, or the Bexar County Human Trafficking Task Force at 210-335-6070 .
New calling system can be a lifeline for missing people
Jeffersonville Police Department adds emergency calling service already used by New Albany Police Department
By DAVID A. MANN
JEFFERSONVILLE — It was a few weeks ago that a Jeffersonville woman went missing in the early morning hours and area residents were awakened by automated phone calls asking for help in finding her.
“Thankfully, the person was located,” said Jeffersonville Police Department Capt. Don Grimes.
However, after the alert went out, the department received a flurry of phone calls from residents wanting to know if the alerts they heard were legitimate.
The answer: Yes, they were.
The phone calls were placed for the department by a Florida-based organization called A Child Is Missing. The nonprofit group aids law enforcement in instances of missing persons by putting out such alerts. Grimes said he understands why residents would be concerned after receiving the calls, but said it's a helpful tool.
“It's a reverse 911 philosophy,” he said, noting those with a listed number within a certain radius of a missing person report likely would receive calls as it's used in the future.
“The more eyes and ears you have the better,” said Grimes. “It became available to us and it's a no-brainer to use it.”
The incident a few weeks ago was one of the first times Jeffersonville police had used the alerts. And actually, Grimes said, information from those calls wasn't a factor in locating the missing woman.
The New Albany Police Department has been utilizing the service for more than a year and a half, according to Chief Todd Bailey. It has had the calls placed on four occasions, three in instances of missing adults and once for a missing child. One time it was helpful in finding someone, he said.
“It's a great program. You want as many tools in your tool belt as you can get.”
When a missing persons report is taken, A Child Is Missing is notified of a physical description, clothing and location where the person was last seen. They record a customized alert message and send it out to telephone subscribers in the area. About 1,000 phone calls can be placed in a minute.
According to information on the agency's website, the New Albany Police Department called for help in locating a missing 30-year-old woman who had been gone for two days in November. The woman was reported to be mentally challenged and had a full cast on her left leg. A wheelchair she had been using was found at her home.
More than 1,200 alert calls were placed surrounding an address on Charlestown Road where she was last seen. A call from a neighbor led police to an ex-boyfriend's apartment, where the woman was ultimately found safe, according to the website.
Nationwide, millions of phone calls have been placed and the organization has been credited with 840 successful recoveries, including more than 40 in Indiana.
A Child Is Missing began in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1997 but began spreading nationally in 2002. The program is funded by the federal government and donations. It comes at no cost to local law enforcement agencies.
A complex mapping system allows the organization to focus on all homes and businesses within a certain radius and dial all phone numbers in that area. Anyone who primarily uses a mobile phone can register that phone number at achildismissing.org.
Holly Bobo Abduction: 3-week wrap-up; ‘We're not giving up on Holly'
By Isabelle Zehnder, Missing Persons Examiner
PARSONS, Tennessee (Isabelle Zehnder reporting) -- Three weeks ago Wednesday, 20-year-old Holly Bobo was abducted from outside her Darden, Tennessee home; her family and community are pleading for her safe return, and are not giving up on searching for Holly.
Holly Bobo is the nursing student who went missing on April 13 – a day, locals say, that will be forever etched in the minds of all those who know and love her.
Thursday is the National Day of Prayer. Holly's friends and family planned several events Thursday morning to gather together to pray for her return. It is their hope that people around the world will join together to pray for Holly's safe return.
Decatur County Sheriff Roy Wyatt said during a phone conversation Thursday afternoon, “I attended several prayer services this morning. We prayed for many things, Holly was definitely remembered in our prayers. This is a very emotional time for me. I want to find her. I feel for our community, I feel for Holly's family. When they hurt, we hurt. We're not giving up on Holly - we're going to do everything we can to find her.”
Holly's family is reaching out to their community, once again, this time asking people to please, search your properties for clues. If you find one, don't touch it. Call 1-800-TBI-FIND begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-TBI-FIND end_of_the_skype_highlighting or the Decatur County Sheriff Department at 731-852-3714
Plea to Holly's abductor
The message from Holly's family and her community is very clear – please allow Holly to return to her family, alive and well. That's it.
Kevin Bromley, the spokesman for the Bobo family, said that the family remains hopeful that Holly will be found unharmed.
While statistically the odds are stacked against her, many believe Holly is still alive. They are holding onto that hope and pray that the person who took Holly will find it in their heart to return her to her family.
Asked Thursday if it's safe to say many believe Holly is still alive Sheriff Wyatt said, “Yes, it's safe to say that.”
“We believe in God, we believe in prayer, and we believe in miracles,” local Decatur County resident, Joan Cagle, said Thursday.
Holly's cousin and country music singer Whitney Duncan said the day Holly disappeared, “Lord have mercy. I feel like I'm walking in a nightmare.” That nightmare has not ended, and needs to end. This family deserves to know what happened to their precious Holly. They deserve to have her back.
Dana and Karen Bobo, Holly's parents, issued a statement to the press Tuesday that said, “We could never thank everyone enough for all the kindness that has been shown to our family during this difficult time.”
This family has been unjustly condemned online yet they are thinking not of themselves but of others who have given their time, money, and energy trying to help bring Holly home. More on this below.
Update on local sex offender, Jason Everett Nickell
Jason Everett Nickell , 39, is the registered “violent” sex offender charged with two counts of stalking against two 19-year-old women over a two-day period April 6 and 7 – the week before Holly went missing. He was arrested on April 18, five days after Holly was abducted and is being held on $300,000 bail. Nickell is described as 6' tall weighing 210 lbs.
For more information about Nickell and the recent arrests, read: Big-city crime comes to small tight-knit community; safety tips
Law enforcement asked people in the community to think back and remember anything unusual about a vehicle that might have been sold or excessively cleaned.
A source, who wishes to remain anonymous, reported Tuesday that a local auto body shop manager remembered Jason Everett Nickell came to their shop in Jackson asking to have a vehicle totaled just days after Holly went missing.
The source said that the following day Nickell's wife allegedly came to the shop to remove items from the vehicle. Nickell's marital status has not been confirmed.
The source reports that Nickell acted "strange, cocky, and hyper." During a conversation about Holly's abduction Nickell allegedly told the shop owner that he lived "three doors down" from the Bobo residence, which, according to news reports and the Tennessee Sexual Offender Registry, is false. The Bobos live on Swan Johnson Road in Darden and Nickell, at that time, lived at 1815 Liberty Church Road in Holladay.
Mapquest shows that the distance between Nickell's residence and the Bobo residence is 21.59 miles via one route, and 25.33 miles another. One local said a person familiar with the woods between the two properties could make it from the Bobo home to the Nickell residence within about 15 minutes.
The incident is said to have occurred sometime after Holly went missing and the time Nickell was incarcerated on April 18.
It was reported the manager of the shop discussed the incident with a friend who then is said to have phoned the tip in to law enforcement.
A call was made to the shop manager Tuesday in an effort to confirm if Nickell had brought a vehicle to their shop to be totaled. The shop manager said it was not her practice to reveal information about her clients.
Asked if she could at least confirm if the vehicle Nickell brought into her shop - after Holly went missing and before April 18 - was a car or truck, the manager said, “It was a truck.” She said that's all she could say.
Nickell remains in the Madison County Jail as he waits for the grand jury to convene. He waived his rights during his April 28 sentencing hearing.
On the Tennessee Sexual Offender registry, Nickell is charged with “Indecency with a Child, 3rd Degree” on August 21, 1995, and “Indecency with child by exposure” on August 1, 1995. He is classified as “VIOLENT.”
Locals have raised concerns that law enforcement may be no closer to finding Holly now than they were the day she went missing.
They are concerned that law enforcement is not enlisting in the help of volunteers to search for clues into Holly's disappearance, and that not as many law enforcement officials are in town working on Holly's case.
Law enforcement admits they've had to scale back but say their investigation is ongoing.
"We're very much still investigating it," Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) spokeswoman Kristin Helm told The Associated Press. "We just don't have as many people dedicated to it as we did in those initials days" after her disappearance. "You just can't sustain that large an operation for a lengthy period of time."
Helm confirmed Tuesday that last weekend's specialized search in Henderson County did not uncover any dramatic new details as they had hoped. She said that even though items belonging to Holly have been discovered over the past few weeks, nothing has ‘cracked' the case.
She said that even though the number of agents working on Holly's case has been scaled back, this remains an active ‘abduction' investigation with a local command post.
“We're running leads and talking to people,” John Mehr, special agent in charge of the TBI investigation in Jackson said Tuesday. “We're asking people to please call and give factual information, nothing that is rumor. I'm sure there are people who saw something out of the ordinary like a vehicle parked in the area between 5 and 8:30 a.m.,” JacksonSun.com reports.
The Tennessean reported on May 4 that Saturday Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long and deputies helped search for Holly. They traveled to Parsons and traversed rugged terrain, covering almost nine miles on foot during the search.
Another search performed by law enforcement took place in Henderson County last weekend. Nothing substantial was found during the search.
On Monday, The Decatur County Chronicle reported Decatur County Sheriff Roy Wyatt said authorities are still actively following leads and investigating the case.
Asked if anyone had been fingerprinted Helm said Monday, “Several people have been fingerprinted for elimination purposes. No one has been fingerprinted due to an arrest in the case.”
A question was posed as to whether the TBI could provide the number of missing persons cold cases Helm said, “TBI does not collect missing person statistics for the state of Tennessee.”
Locals and others interested in searching for Holly were frustrated over the weekend. Some had made flight arrangements and were waiting to hear if law enforcement was going to use them in another ground search since the weather had somewhat improved.
Helm responded Saturday saying they had no weekend searches for volunteers scheduled, and that they would let them know if and when they would need them to search. She said they would resume searches if they determine a specific area that needs to be reexamined.
There has been some question as to who made the two 911 calls the morning Holly went missing. Many believe the neighbor who allegedly heard Holly scream made one of the calls. Helm said, “I'm unaware the neighbor made a 911 call.”
Asked to confirm the TBI was working to narrow the search and identify persons of interest, Helm said a week ago Wednesday, “No, that's incorrect. What I told the reporter was that our investigation was narrowing, there was no mention of a person of interest.
“Meaning that there's a lot of things we know now that we didn't know ten days ago and that our investigation is more focused. We are still following all leads.”
Asked if comments made on Facebook that Holly's cell phone had been found, Helm said last Thursday, “We're not releasing information on potential evidence we've found at this time.”
Information withheld from public
People are asking why law enforcement is withholding information from the public, such as items located during the search and DNA results of blood evidence from outside Holly's home.
On Wednesday, NewsChannel5.com reported that police said they don't have that much to release and they're holding back information that “only her [Holly's] abductor would know.”
Law enforcement often does not release a lot of information concerning ongoing investigations to the media and the public.
Helm said in an April 29 email, “When you are trying to solve an unsolved crime, the only person who knows more about it than law enforcement is the person responsible.”
More information about evidence being withheld from the public will be addressed in an upcoming article.
A family and pastor unjustly condemned online
Holly's pastor, Don Franks, wrote a note attached to a fax from Holly's family that read: “No child is safe until we find Holly Bobo and the thousands of missing children in America. Bring them home to their families and bring their kidnappers to justice.”
Pastor Franks' handwritten note, as well as a handwritten statement from the Bobo family, were scanned and shared online.
As a result, Pastor Franks was wrongly, with no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part, attacked online with accusations made that he may have been involved in her disappearance.
There have been numerous attacks on Holly's brother and family - all which serve to hurt a family that is already grieving. This will be addressed further in an upcoming article.
In Pastor Franks' defense local resident Teresa Floyd said, “Mrs. Don Franks is the niece of my mother, aunt and great aunt. They all married brothers of the same family.
“Brother Don, along with my cousin, preached my mother's funeral, 20 years ago, nearly to the day.
“He buried his own grandson just weeks before Holly disappeared, yet has been tirelessly searching for her with everyone else involved.
“He (and his family, daughter, Mary Beth, mother of Brennan) have spent endless hours in physically demanding efforts, and selfless dedication to the Bobos and finding Holly.
“I have not seen the note, but I know no one attacks a physician because of his poor penmanship, and I can assure you there is NO ONE that knows anyone involved, that gives one moment's pause to the vile assertions of armchair detectives that would attack Don Franks.
“I have known him personally for 34 years, he is a neighbor and a neighbor to family. His son looks in on the widows and helps them with projects they need help with.
“Don and Rebbecca Franks have raised two of the finest children I have had the honor of knowing and the privilege of calling family. He does not deserve to be attacked. But I know, he will take it all in stride, if in any way, it helps bring Holly home safe.”
The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Holly's abduction has topped $80,000. Holly's community has raised more than $25,000. Another $50,000 was offered by Governor Bill Haslam, and another $5,000 from the Tennessee Sheriff's Association.
Additional donations can be made to a fund at First Bank in Parsons.
Search teams arrive to look for missing police cadet Kelly Rothwell
St. Petersburg, Florida
They arrived ready to work. The white SUV was loaded up with two search dogs, barking with excitement, no doubt ready to hit the ground running.
The case of missing police cadet Kelly Rothwell is about to get a big boost, as search teams from Cue Center for Missing Persons have arrived in Florida.
Cue Center founder Monica Caison told 10 News, "I do have roots here, still have family here. I know this area. I'm very confident in some areas that I want to look at, that we will be searching."
Monica has run Cue Center for the last 17 years, with big success in helping family members find their missing loved ones. She travels all over the country with her crews and search dogs.
It's clear that this is her passion. She has an eye for it, and the heart for it.
"This is not a game," she said. "We are not here to get attention or showboat. We are here to do a job, and that's find Kelly."
After arriving late Wednesday night, Monica's first order of business Thursday morning was to meet with Pinellas detectives at the Sheriff's Office.
Monica said, "When these families make a report of a missing person, they're left with nothing else to do, so we come in and put them in a positive direction. Things that can help the investigators like awareness campaigns where people can reach out."
She was briefed on the case by Pinellas Detectives Michael Bailey and Amy Plourde.
It gives Monica a starting off point, and she quickly began by going straight from the Sheriff's Office to the Indian Rocks Beach condo that Kelly shared with her boyfriend, David Perry.
Perry has still not cooperated with detectives. He will not give a DNA sample. He will not provide them with a timeline of the last weekend, March 12th, when Kelly was reportedly going home to break up with him.
He simply will not talk about it.
As Cue Center conducts its investigation, Pinellas detectives continue their work as well. They believe Kelly is no longer alive. They just want to find her.
Detective Amy Plourde told us, "If it were me and I was Kelly -- and any one of us could be -- I know that my friends and family would probably try to do everything possible. to try to find where I was. I try to put myself in their shoes."
Bring Kelly Rothwell Home Facebook Page
Detective Plourde admits that she has a strong passion for the case. She's learned so much about Kelly, her habits, her friends, her life. The detective says she feels as if she knows Kelly and just wants to bring her home.
"This could be any of us," she said. "I will never stop, I've told the family this. As long as it takes, we will never stop trying to look for Kelly and we won't until we find her."
Monica has blocked off a week of time to stay in Florida. Additional search teams and dogs will arrive in the next couple of days.
CUE Center for Missing Persons
"We will search all weekend," she said.
Meanwhile, detectives still have yet to travel to Elmira, New York where David Perry is currently living. In fact, there's now a Facebook page dedicated to him called "David Perry is Innocent." It is not known if he created the page.
To view that page, you can visit here.
Detective Michael Bailey tells 10 News, "[Kelly] could be anywhere in the United States, obviously, between Florida and New York. That's an area David Perry is familiar with. Probably not a bad idea to check it out."
Last weekend, a vigil was held for Kelly not in Florida, but in Elmira, New York; her ex-boyfriend's hometown.
Kelly's friends and family were hoping that the vigil brings more attention to her case and could encourage Perry to talk.
Detective Bailey says, "Elmira is a small town. I'm certain because of coverage, everyone is aware of the case, so it's important for them to see that a lead may come from that."
It could be that lead that allows detectives to find Kelly Rothwell in Pinellas County.
Detectives have also confirmed to 10 News that they are putting together billboards next month with Kelly's information. It could help jog someone's memory. They are also continuing to speak with Kelly's classmates at the police academy, where she was at the top of her class.
If you know where Kelly is or have any information on her disappearance, there's a reward of up to $1,000 waiting for you.
Illinois woman helps identify Mich. amnesia victim
May 5, 2011
Police in Illinois have identified a missing Michigan mother of four who was suffering from amnesia.
The Herald-News in Joliet reports 32-year-old Amber Gerweck was identified Wednesday. A Joliet woman read an article about the woman and then notified police when she found a missing persons flier on Facebook.
Police say Gerweck had a legitimate case of amnesia. They say Gerweck flagged down an officer Monday evening and said she didn't know who she was. She was taken to a hospital.
Gerweck's husband reported her missing to the Department of Public Safety in Jackson Township, Mich., on April 9. Gerweck's car and personal belongings were found abandoned in Tunnel Hill, Ga., the next day.
Couple arrested for allegedly selling kidnapped victim for sex
By Joy Brooks, Fort Worth
Human Trafficking Examiner
May 5th, 2011 4:51 pm CT
This week a couple was arrested for sex trafficking a 21-year-old woman in Dallas. The couple from Milwaukee are accused of kidnapping the woman and forcing her to work as a prostitute and stripper over at least the past month, according official documents. The woman allegedly kidnapped from Milwaukee and forced into sex slavery and stripping here in North Texas and New Orleans.
When the woman first tried to escape the 29-year-old Nicholas Lonell Tolbert tortured the woman by holding her head under ice cold water until she agreed to her captors' demands. The woman escaped and reported to the police that she had been kidnaped by the couple.
Tolbert and his girlfriend, Elika Tia Brown, 27, face felony charges of trafficking a person. They were being held Wednesday at the Dallas County Jail, where bail was set at $25,000 each. The problem of sex trafficking is real in North Texas and one that the police and Texas Congress and Senate are facing. New laws in the state of Texas will bring tougher penalties for human trafficking.
A study done by Dallas Women's Foundation "Adolescent Girls in the Texas Sex Trade" released January 2011 researched the problem of CSEC (commercially sexually exploited children). The research revealed that over a one month period their were over 250 victims of domestic minor sex trafficking in North Texas alone. Recently, they released a one day study done in the month of February revealing that during a one day period 50 under age girls are sold for sex in the D/FW area.
Many times the problem that is not being addressed in the area of sex trafficking is the issue of demand. Simple truth is, if there is no demand they would be no one selling the product. The tragedy in the story of sex slavery is that the product is a human being exploited for greed.
If North Texas is going to deal with the true problem that faces the community it will have to deal with the issue of slavery, and address the demand which will be essential to end this in our neighborhoods.
How to End Sex Trafficking in Massage Parlors in Your Community
by Dana Liebelson
This is part two of an interview with Jessica Goodman, a student activist at Carnegie Mellon University who is doing research on anti-trafficking issues and helping rally support for a proposal that would help end sex trafficking in Pittsburgh massage parlors. Here, Goodman outlines how you can get a similar ordinance passed in your own community. To read part one, click here.
1) Investigate. Read through the johns' boards; see how many massage parlors are in your area. Making a map helps; ours was color-coded by city council district to make it easy for people to see how close these places are to our homes and schools. Be warned: these boards can be extremely graphic and disturbing.
2) Identify. Look for the best person or office to introduce the ordinance. Perhaps your county has more investigative powers than your city; maybe your state house is the best place to look. Ending human trafficking is a non-partisan issue, so feel free to look for supporters from outside of your own experience. We have received wonderful support from the religious community in Pittsburgh, including Sister Jeanette Bussen, a local nun and anti-trafficking activist who I would never have met without this work.
3) Instigate. Start drumming up community support. Ask to talk for 15 minutes at the ends of college clubs' meetings, present to church groups and contact local fraternal organizations. Ask local massage therapists if they know where illegitimate establishments are located; because johns sometimes confuse good businesses with places to buy sex, some massage therapists have been sexually harassed by them. These places are deeply embedded in our communities -- in Pittsburgh, not one of the 15 brothels posing as massage parlors is more than a few blocks from a church, synagogue or mosque. It is an issue on everyone's plate, whether we know it or not.
Once you have the knowledge, the institutional and the community support, you may need to address the concerns of local business owners, consult law enforcemen and make sure that your case is as solid as possible. And ask for help -- the Project to End Human Trafficking and I are committed to getting this passed in Pittsburgh and elsewhere. If you live in Pittsburgh, please consider volunteering for or donating to the Project to End Human Trafficking or handwriting a letter of support to Mayor Ravenstahl.
I am a bit of a policy wonk, so my first reaction to a new issue is to do research. For me, reading through all of the materials put out by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 for information on anti-trafficking organizations in my area and reading the U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Persons report gave me enough of a foundation to form an opinion about how to best combat trafficking in Pittsburgh.
If you are better with counseling than I am, volunteer to work with survivors. It can be satisfying work, if not always fun. If you only have a little time, consider writing a paper on trafficking. I bet you $10 donated to your favorite anti-trafficking organization, I can take any term-paper topic and find a way to make it about ending trafficking. Seriously. Email me.
The most important thing any student can do is to learn the signs of human trafficking. Confinement, abuse, debt-bondage, threats, minors in commercial sex, adults in jobs they can't leave -- these are things anyone can see anytime and report to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888). The call specialists keep track of all of the tips they receive and pass them on to law enforcement. Together, we can end sex trafficking in our communities.
Toledo Man Charged with Running Criminal Enterprise from Behind Bars While Awaiting Trial on Sex Trafficking Charges
New criminal charges were filed against Roy Calhoun, a Toledo man awaiting trial on charges that he was engaged in sex trafficking of minors, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
“This defendant is accused of trying to continue to run his criminal enterprise from behind bars,” Dettelbach said. “He is charged with trafficking in children and now distributing drugs and intimidating witnesses. There is no place for this kind of behavior in society.”
Calhoun, 28, aka “Lucky” was arrested in November 2010 and accused of recruiting females, including minors, to work as prostitutes between 2007 and 2010. Calhoun would beat and assault the females who worked for him and threatened those who left or attempted to quit working as prostitutes, according to the indictment.
The two additional indictments stem from activities that took place after Calhoun was arrested.
A superseding indictment was filed adding a count of obstruction of justice. Previously charged were Calhoun, Marissa M. Mayers, and Damien Harris (both 22 and both of Toledo). The superseding indictment adds Shaina M. Perry, 21; Carrie L. Schuster, 23; and Velda R. Travis, 50, all of Toledo.
Calhoun, Perry, Schuster, and Travis are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice.
In November 2010 through January 2011, Calhoun contacted Perry, Schuster, and Travis from jail and directed them to contact witnesses and potential witnesses to influence or withhold testimony, according to the indictment.
In one instance, Calhoun instructed Perry to contact the boyfriend of a potential witness and advise the boyfriend to tell that witness that she should say she was “out there doing (prostitution) on her own,” according to the indictment.
In another instance, Calhoun instructed Perry to send a message to co-defendant Marissa Mayers that “they can beat this if they stick together” and Mayers “should not make any deals” and that Perry should advise Mayers “no face no case,” according to the indictment.
A separate indictment was also filed against Calhoun, Perry, and Travis, as well as Charles Travis, Jr., aka “Chubb”, 49, of Toledo; Monica Velasquez, 35, of Fostoria, Ohio; and Justin Hill, 20, of Toledo. They are charged with conspiracy with intent to distribute Oxycodone, Oxycontin, and Percocet.
Charles Travis, Jr. and Perry are at large. The others are in custody.
Calhoun, in federal custody on the sex trafficking charge, arranged for the defendants to purchase as sell Oxycodone, Oxycontin, and Percocet pills. The defendants then split the profits from the illegal drug sales among themselves and delivered some of the proceeds to Calhoun at the Lucas County Jail, according to the indictment.
Calhoun and Vasquez also face additional charges related to their efforts to have Vasquez bring prohibited items, including tobacco and marijuana, to Calhoun while he was in custody, according to the indictment.
These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney James V. Moroney following an investigation by the Northwest Ohio Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force.
The NWOVCACTF includes members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, Toledo Police Department, Lima Police Department, Perrysburg Township Police Department, Fulton County Sheriff's Office, and the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office.
A charge is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
2 teens in Mass. bullying case get probation
by STEPHANIE REITZ, Associated Press
May 4, 2011
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Two Massachusetts teens accused of harassing a 15-year-old classmate who later hanged herself were sentenced Wednesday to a year of probation, the first of five anticipated plea deals in a case that drew worldwide attention to school bullying.
Phoebe Prince's crying mother approved the deals finalized Wednesday in Hampshire Superior Court, where Sean Mulveyhill and Kayla Narey, both 18, were sentenced for their roles in the bullying that preceded Phoebe's suicide in January 2010.
Three other former South Hadley High School students are expected to accept similar plea arrangements Thursday in a nearby juvenile courthouse, a few miles from their small hometown about 100 miles west of Boston.
Prosecutors said Phoebe's family agreed to the plea deals to end the stress of the drawn-out court proceedings and, more importantly, because they required the teens to admit that their threats, crude insults and slurs about Phoebe's Irish ethnicity were criminal acts.
Prosecutors have said the bullying stemmed from four girls' anger about Phoebe's relationships with Mulveyhill, who was captain of the school's football team, and another popular boy after she transferred to South Hadley from Ireland, and that Mulveyhill goaded some of the girls to harangue Phoebe after he dumped her.
"Today's proceedings signify that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated in our schools and when it rises to the level of criminal conduct, as it did in these two cases, those responsible will be prosecuted," Northwestern First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne said after Wednesday's sentencings.
Mulveyhill, Narey and four other South Hadley teens originally were charged with violating Phoebe's civil rights and other offenses, and Mulveyhill was charged with statutory rape for allegedly having sexual contact with the underage girl.
On Wednesday, Mulveyhill pleaded guilty under the plea arrangement to a single count of misdemeanor criminal harassment and the other charges were dropped, including the statutory rape charge.
Narey's plea deal was slightly different: she acknowledged the state would likely win a conviction at trial on a criminal harassment charge, so prosecution was placed on hold without a formal guilty plea and the civil rights charge against her was dropped. That leaves her with a clean record if she successfully completes probation.
She apologized through tears Wednesday to Phoebe's family, her own and her hometown, saying she was so jealous about Prince's brief relationship with Mulveyhill — her on and off boyfriend — that she temporarily put aside the values her family had instilled in her.
Her attorney said Narey had only a few interactions with the girl, and was not part of the more extensive and drawn-out bullying that others are accused of orchestrating. She also posted disparaging comments about Phoebe on her Facebook page.
"I was the weak one, and that failure will always be with me ... I am sorry, Phoebe," Narey said Wednesday, crying as Phoebe's mother sat nearby clutching a tissue after shedding her own tears. "I am immensely ashamed of myself that I allowed my emotions to spiral into acts of unkindness."
Mulveyhill did not address the court during his sentencing, but his attorney, Vincent Bongiorni, said he believes the plea arrangement is "a fair and equitable one, given the entirety of the circumstances."
Prosecutors' comments Wednesday painted Mulveyhill as someone who deceived both girls about his involvement with the other, then egged on a third girl to frighten Phoebe and threaten to beat her up.
Phoebe hanged herself that day after school, telling a friend in final text messages, "I think Sean condoning this is one of the final nails in my coffin. I can't take much more — it would be easier if he or any one of them handed me a noose."
Phoebe's death became an often-cited case in national debates over preventing and prosecuting bullying in American schools and universities. Her mother, Anne O'Brien, said Mulveyhill and Narey had many opportunities to stop the other girls' bullying but, instead, added fuel to the fire by participating or condoning it.
O'Brien shared memories of visiting Paris with her daughter, reading the girl's poetry, chatting at the kitchen table and discussing Phoebe's dreams for her future, all of which were lost on the day the teen's younger sister found her body.
"It is nearly impossible to measure the impact of Phoebe's death upon our lives ... There is a dead weight that now sits permanently in my chest," her mother, Anne O'Brien, said in court.
Phoebe had attempted suicide earlier in the school year after the breakup with Mulveyhill, and information that police found on her computer indicated she was contemplating it again about a month before she hanged herself, Narey's attorney, Michael Jennings, said Wednesday in court before prosecutors objected and the judge curbed his comments.
Phoebe's mother did not address those comments, but said Narey had a chance to be a school leader and friend to Phoebe and, instead, turned on the girl despite being "well aware of Phoebe's fragility and vulnerability."
Mulveyhill and Narey must both serve a year of probation under terms of Wednesday's plea arrangements and perform 100 hours of community service to help at-risk youth. They also cannot profit from telling their stories during their probation period, and can only be in contact with the Prince family at their approval.
The three younger teens — Ashley Longe, Flannery Mullins and Sharon Velazquez — have court dates Thursday in Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court.
A sixth teen, 19-year-old Austin Renaud, is not charged in connection with the bullying, but faces a single statutory rape charge for allegedly having sexual contact with Prince. He has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney says they do not have a plea agreement in place with prosecutors.
Habitual O.C. sex offender convicted of having images showing children being tortured and raped
May 3, 2011
An Orange County sex offender with nine prior convictions was sentenced to 25 years to life Tuesday for possessing thousands of pornographic images of children and photos showing children being tortured and mutilated, authorities said.
Vaughn Robert Biby, 47, a Fullerton resident, was charged with having pictures and videos showing showing infants and young children bathing, swimming in pools and being potty trained, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.
Biby also had books and Internet photo printouts depicting children being raped, murdered and tortured, the district attorney's office said.
Prosecutors said his prior convictions were for lewd and lascivious acts on minors in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
Gov. Deal Signs Human Trafficking Bill Into Law
by Chandra R. Thomas
May 3, 201
The human trafficking bill that toughens the penalty for sex traffickers and seeks to improve outcomes for victims has been officially signed into Georgia law.
A small crowd of supporters gathered around Governor Nathan Deal Tuesday afternoon as he signed HB 200 at My Sister's House in the Atlanta Mission. The legislation was introduced this year by Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta) and passed within the same legislative session, which wrapped up last month.
The governor and his wife, First Lady Sandra Deal, shared encouraging words to the families of trafficking survivors during the signing event. Both commended child advocates for remaining vigilant in their work to eradicate child sex trafficking.
The bill's signing is being touted as an especially critical victory because Atlanta is a known hub for human trafficking. Representatives from Street GRACE , a non-profit consortium of churches that provide volunteer support and advocacy initiatives for at-risk children statewide, say about 375 girls are exploited in Georgia each month, with the majority of the illegal incidents occurring in Atlanta. Within the same time frame, the organization estimates, about 7,200 men knowingly or unknowingly purchase sex from teen girls in the state.
Key provisions in HB 200 include:
- Provides an expanded definition of “coercion” in the human trafficking statute, to include causing or threatening financial harm.
- Prohibits defense by blood relation – such as parents exploiting their children – or by marriage – such as a husband “selling” his wife.
- Significantly beefs up penalties for human traffickers who target minors. If the victim is at least 16 but less than 18 years old, the crime is a felony and punishable by 5-20 years in prison and a fine of $2,500 to $10,000. If the victim is under 16 years old, the crime is a felony and punishable by 10-30 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Treats those in sexual servitude as victims, not criminals, by offering them recovery under the state crime victim's fund.
- Provides an affirmative defense for victims when coming forward to the sexual crimes of prostitution, sodomy, solicitation of sodomy and masturbation for hire, if the defendant was being trafficked for sexual servitude.
- Allows the state to seize any real or personal property that a trafficker used for, or bought with the proceeds of the crime.
- Requires law enforcement agencies to receive training on how to relate to human trafficking victims.
Rep. Lindsey's bill built upon the foundation established by a failed measure introduced last year by Sen. Renee Unterman , who also supported HB 200. Sen. Unterman's bill had pushed for children 16 and under to be treated as victims and not criminals in prostitution cases. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens had members of his staff work with Rep. Lindsey in strengthening the legal framework for HB 200, in hopes of helping it avoid a similar fate.
On the heels of the legislative victory, supporters of the measure have told JJIE.org they will begin focusing their efforts on ensuring the law gets implemented and enforced.
Spring Lake Park Man Arrested after Abduction, Amber Alert
by Leah Beno / FOX 9 News
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Police have booked a Spring Lake Park man who was arrested in connection with an Amber Alert that was issued in St. Paul after a 7-year-old girl was lured from a Laundromat.
FOX 9 News cameras caught footage of 48-year-old John Craig Heuer as he was arrested at his townhome on Monday after he was found hiding under his car in his garage.
He is expected to appear in court on Wednesday morning, but he has not yet been formally charged with a crime.
The Amber Alert was issued in St. Paul after the girl was lured away from a Laundromat on the 1600 block of Rice Street by a man who said he wanted her to “come see his puppy.”
The girl was found miles away from where she about an hour and a half later.
"This little girl was incredibly brave and resilient," St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith said. "The information she provided our investigators, along with information from witnesses, was instrumental in the apprehension of this man."
One of Heuer's neighbors found the girl Sunday night. Shuja Ahmed and his wife were pulling their car out of the garage at the Spring Crest Estates when they saw the girl outside, cold and alone. They asked the girl if she needed help.
Ahmed said the girl tried to give them directions to her home but couldn't remember. She had no idea she was more than 13 miles from home.
Ahmed tried to take the girl to the police station, but when the doors were closed her brought her to his family's business, the Hyway House Motel and called police. Ahmed did not know there was an Amber Alert issued for the girl.
Police spokesman Andy Skoogman said the girl was examined by doctors and reunited with her family.
FOX 9 spoke with the family through a translator on Monday, and they said they were very happy to learn of Heuer's arrest
Local officials urged to support projects vs sex trafficking
LOCAL Government Secretary Jess Robredo called on all local government officials across the country to support the government's project of putting a stop to sex trafficking.
In a memorandum, Robredo asked all local government units to help in the campaign through disseminating a petition to help raise awareness of the law punishing exploitation of children.
The gathering of signatures for the petition will be done both online and offline in schools, universities, communities, organizations, government and non-government agencies and private companies.
The petition will be submitted to President Benigno Aquino III on July 2011.
The Philippine campaign specifically calls on government to focus on the development of community-based awareness on child-trafficking, particularly targeting the most vulnerable children.
The campaign also aims to raise awareness in schools by providing appropriate training to teachers, improving law enforcement systems, capacity building for professionals and allocation of more resources to provide recovery resources for recovery and reintegration services to child victims.
In the Philippines, 70 percent of victims of trafficking are women and children.
In most cases, these women and children end up being sold to bars or are forced to work in the sex trade, including work in cybersex dens.
Anaheim man is charged with sexually assaulting disabled woman in campus bathroom
May 2, 2011
An Anaheim man charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting an 18-year-old developmentally disabled woman is expected to be arraigned Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court, police said.
The woman was assaulted Friday afternoon in a bathroom at the School for Continuing Education in Fullerton, police said.
Raul Barrientos, 22, was arrested on the campus after he was stopped by a security guard while trying to leave the area in a bus, said Sgt. Andrew Goodrich of the Fullerton Police Department.
"The girl has a greatly diminished mental capacity, but we were able to get the bad guy," Goodrich told The Times.
He said Barrientos was being held in Orange County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Student raises sex trafficking awareness by breaking a sweat
by Nesima Aberra and Jenna Brownlee
Journalism sophomore Michelle Rivas is using her average workout at the gym to serve a humanitarian cause.
Rivas, a Downtown student who regularly visits the gym, is sweating to raise awareness for child sex slavery.
“It's a touchy subject, which is why a lot of people don't talk about it,” she said.
Rivas hopes to change that stigma through Tread on Trafficking, a virtual fundraising event to benefit the nonprofit organization Love146.
The average age that a child enters prostitution in Phoenix and the U.S. is 13, and up to 300,000 U.S. children are at risk for sexual exploitation, according to a report written by Shared Hope International, a nonprofit group that raises awareness about sex trafficking.
Event participants called “treaders” run, walk or swim independently or with a group, and track their miles online while getting sponsor donations from May 1 to June 30. All proceeds go to the organization's programs.
“Treaders” register online and compete to raise the most money, get the most support and achieve the most unique fitness goal. Winners will receive a Love146-branded iPod touch.
Love146, dedicated to the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation, was created in 2004. The name was inspired by a “purchase” number of a child sex slave the founders met while in Thailand. Love146 has projects in Asia, Europe and the United States and focuses on training, intervention, mentoring and prevention education for children, as well as advocacy and aftercare.
Rivas found out about Love146 from a friend last year and signed up on the group's website to receive updates and information by email.
“Boys and girls have their entire childhood taken away. It's the worst sort of torture that you could put a child through,” she said.
Ashley Smith, volunteer coordinator, from StreetLight Phoenix, a local group working to eradicate child sex slavery, said there are several reasons many Americans aren't very concerned about sex trafficking.
“A lot of people assume that it's from the past and third-world countries,” Smith said.
“I don't think people realize, because a lot of them don't like the way that it happens,” she said. “In other places, it's on the streets. Here, it happens behind closed doors, so that you can't actually see.”
When Rivas saw the notice about the Tread for Trafficking event, she wanted to get more involved. She set a goal of raising $300 and plans to work out at the gym in the Taylor Place residence hall on the Downtown campus. Once school ends, Rivas plans to continue running in her neighborhood in Goodyear, Ariz.
Misty Guerriero, owner of Downtown campus vintage shop Vintage by Misty, was the first donor to Rivas' campaign and has since shared the link on her Facebook page.
“At her age, to be involved in any type of charity is great … I thought it was a great thing to do,” Guerriero said.
There are currently 706 treaders signed up and $24,303 has been raised through Tread on Trafficking. Participants have until June 30 and are encouraged to register online at any time at love146.org/tot.
Smith said awareness events like Tread for Trafficking are great because it's an easy way for people to promote prevention.
“One of the most powerful tools, whether we have money or don't have money, is the voice,” she said. “We each have been given a voice and if your voice is from running a marathon, then do that.”
70 per cent women enter flesh trade voluntarily: study
by Shruti Nambiar
Pune : Seventy per cent of women sex workers are not pushed or forced into flesh trade but are drawn to it by the lure of higher income, according to the preliminary result of a survey released by women's group Akshara.
The preliminary results of the first leg of a pan-India study being conducted by two University of Pune researchers was released on April 30.
The study by Department of Economics researchers Rohini Sahni and V Kalyan Shankar aims at establishing the premise that prostitution is part of an overall informal labour market in the country.
The preliminary results of the survey of 3,000 women and 2,000 men and transgenders engaged in sex work reveal that 70.4 per cent of the women opt for sex work voluntarily and are not coerced into it, and higher income was possibility the primary reason.
“We have been collecting data from 14 states and one Union Territory for the two years now. There have been other such researches relating to the topic, but they are more about ascertaining the number of women engaged in prostitution or in intervention in connection to diseases like HIV-AIDS. There is the usual notion that most sex workers are sold, cheated or forced into sex trade, but that is not true. There definitely is a trafficking racket, but not all women are victims of it. This study wants to challenge the perception that prostitution is not the only option that presents poor women,” said Sahni.
The study has brought to light that unlettered women of low means often enter the unorganised labour market early in life, before moving on to sex work. This busts the notion that prostitution is the last resort of unskilled women. These women, (50% of the women in the survey have had zero schooling), could enter the labour market as early as at the age of six, earning Rs 500-1000 a month as household helps, scrap collectors, petty sellers and so on.
By the time they are 16-19 years of age, they would have had worked for 8-10 years at this meagre income level. Prostitution, which gets them Rs 5,000-Rs 10,000 a month, is comparatively more lucrative.
“It's a part of the larger choice that women make. Illiterate women are often stuck in labour-intensive work where incomes are sticky, with little incremental benefit over the years. Prostitution helps them earn a premium on their incomes,” said Shankar.
Only part of the first leg of the three-part study has been released. This is the first pan-India research on the continuum in prostitution and the labour market. “The latter parts will deal with sexuality, sexual harassment, stigma, treatment by police and public health services, and other such issues,” said Sahni.
Sex Trafficking Sad Reality in Cobb, Metro Atlanta
Commercial sexual exploitation of children in our back yard is akin to modern-day slavery.
by Erin Levin
The facts about sex trafficking are beyond startling. They are eye-opening, gut-wrenching and heart-breaking.
Let's start with the big picture and context of modern-day slavery.
A slave in Atlanta in 1850 cost around the equivalent of $40,000 today; now, the average price for a slave is $90.
Understanding the Problem
Millions of people all over the world are bought and sold as slaves every day.
There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today. The worldwide sex trade is currently exploiting one million children. The total yearly profit of this black-market trade in human beings is $32 billion. Sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the 21st century. Our country has a war on drugs. What about these innocent little girls?
The U.S. State Department estimates that 244,000 American children and youth are at risk of sexual exploitation. The average age of children exploited is 14; however, children as young as 10 and 11 have been reported as victims.
This Is Personal
I am an abolitionist of the modern slave trade of little children in our region. In Atlanta, approximately 400 young children are bought and sold for sex each month. An estimated 7,200 men pay for sex with adolescent girls each month in our state.
A study by the Atlanta Mayor's Office found that “there is a strong spatial correlation between areas of adult prostitution activities and juvenile prostitution-related activities.”
The report said sex trafficking is a major issue in several areas in metro Atlanta including Metropolitan Parkway, Moreland Avenue, Vine Street, Peachtree and North Avenue and Pharr Road. And the crime isn't limited to the inner parts of Atlanta but stretches into Marietta and Cobb County as well.
“I have an interest in working these cases because these children have been unfairly labeled and cases are not being investigated,” says Cobb County Crimes Against Children Detective Carol Largent.
In short, child sex slavery is actively happening in our back yard!
Where is the problem and who actually purchases sex from minors?
The Schapiro Group is a data-driven strategic consulting firm based in Atlanta. They produced a study that shows the largest group of men who purchase sex with young females is found in the north metro Atlanta area, outside I-285 (42 percent). It also shows that 23 percent of buyers are from the south metro area, 26 percent are in the city's core and only 9 percent come from the airport area.
Child sex trafficking is just as huge a problem for affluent families in Marietta as it is in the inner city of Atlanta.
Any young girl is at risk for being enslaved for sex. Factors such as childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence at home, poverty and running away lead to a much greater threat.
An estimated 1.6 million children run away from home each year in the United States. The average time it takes before a trafficker or a solicitor approaches a runaway is only 48 hours.
And 90 percent of runaway girls in Atlanta become part of the city's sex trade, and 70 to 90 percent of commercially sexually exploited children have a history of childhood sexual abuse.
Girls are lured in by recruiters and pimps; other children are also used as recruiters. At times, a girl's own family may be the sellers.
One Girl's Story
At the age of 6, Sarah's brother's best friend sexually molested her. She never told anyone. When she was in her teens, her brother was killed in a car accident. This tore her family apart, and her parents divorced. Sarah (her name has been changed to protect her identity) went to live with her mother, and her father quickly remarried. He then had another child. She felt rejected by him.
Sarah's mother was accustomed to the wealthier lifestyle she previously had, but was now living jobless in a trailer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Due to Sarah acting out as a young teen, she ended up with a probation officer. He would stop by the house and eventually started fixing things Sarah's mother needed done and ended up eating dinner with them. One night, her mother told Sarah that her probation officer had been kind to them and that Sarah needed to repay him. Then her mother left them alone, and he took advantage of her. This happened several times. He had a family. Sarah was only 15 years old.
This opened the door to Sarah's mother commercially sexually exploiting her as a teenager. She set up clients who would visit them at their home. These clients were typically CEOs, presidents, directors and managers of many successful Atlanta companies. Many were violent, some would beat her, and others burned her with cigarettes.
At 19, Sarah had a son by a high school boyfriend. After the birth of her son, her mother kept the baby while Sarah started dancing at clubs. She could make $800 a night. Sarah tried holding down "normal" jobs, but her mother pressured her into dancing and often threatened to take her son away if she ever quit. Sarah danced for more than nine years. She also did drugs and drank to cope. Eventually, Sarah realized that the environment for her son was horrible and sent him to live with his father while she moved out of her mother's home.
Just four months ago, a lady in whow Sarah had confided gave her the book A League of Dangerous Women . Sarah read it and was so moved by the fact that there were other women who had backgrounds just like hers. She called Wellspring Living, the subject organization in the book, and a few days later was in its assessment center.
Sarah is now in the Wellspring Living program and doing well. She has told her story to her son, now 19, and to her father. Both were completely unaware of the things that went on. They are all in family therapy and working on reunification. Sarah has little contact with her mother.
A Glimpse of Hope
Based on seven years of experience with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, Wellspring Living was approached by several leaders in 2007 to address the issue of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Georgia. In 2008 they formed a partnership to provide a place for education, therapy and a safe refuge to the young victims.
Through their phased approach in therapy and education, the girls progress at their own rate, and they become prepared to reintegrate into society as successful citizens. The curriculum is very individualized. To date, 45 girls have been through the program. Nine now have their high school diplomas, one is in college, three are in tech school, and the others are on grade level back in school. Only two of the girls are back in a dangerous lifestyle. People across the nation are looking toward Wellspring as a model to create similar programs in their communities. Wellspring founder and director Mary Frances Bowley says: “We look at the whole person and what's best for her. That approach has proven a huge successful impact.”
With only 14 beds for victims of CSEC, Wellspring is one of the largest treatment facilities and the only comprehensive care center in the country. The greatest struggle is the desire to do more and to help more of the at least 200 girls currently in need in Georgia; however, Wellspring is privately funded and doesn't have the financial capacity to grow right now.
“I think we're all responsible for our community, and if there's someone hurting and oppressed, that's a part of what we're created to do–to be a part of restoration. These girls are just little girls who have not had the chance to be a little girl. We just want to be able to provide the opportunity for young girls and women who want their life to be different. We're excited about it. We see something that's really working. We believe this model is from God,” Bowley says.
Raising alarm on sex work slavery at Patterson forum
by Ken Carlson
Human trafficking doesn't happen just in other countries.
It's one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the United States. Many of the victims are young people born in this nation, said a committee planning a forum Saturday.
"Slavery is alive and well in 2011, and I think everyone is just waking up to it," said Michelle Lum of Patterson, who is working with other residents to organize the forum at Patterson Covenant Church.
Speakers will include: Daphne Phung, executive director and founder of California Against Slavery, a Bay Area human rights group; Kathy Wilson of New Day for Children, which shelters victims of slavery; and Shelli Krunic of Hagar International, a Christian group working with women and children in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The Patterson committee hopes that law enforcement, social service agencies and nonprofit groups will mobilize resources to combat human trafficking and assist the victims.
The State Department estimates that every year tens of thousands of foreign nationals are brought to this country as slaves. Many are coerced into working in domestic servitude, sweatshop factories, agriculture, panhandling or prostitution.
It's estimated that at least 100,000 minors are trafficked for sex in the United States.
Phung, a Fremont resident, recalled looking at the erotic services section of Craigslist and finding 100 listings for prostitutes who appeared to be underage. Those postings were for Fremont alone, she said.
She told of a Contra Costa County girl who was saved from the sex trade. Her pimp first brought the teenager to customers in Modesto, then moved her to the streets of Sacramento, Phung said.
"Sex trafficking of minors has become a second source of income for gangs," she said. "With drugs, they can only sell them once. But they can sell a girl multiple times."
Phung said that pimps use violence and coercion to control the young women. Even though they are victims of trafficking, the girls are treated like criminals when arrested.
"They are put in juvenile hall for three or four days and then return to their pimps after they're released," she said.
I-5 and 99 an attraction
Authorities believe the Interstate 5 and Highway 99 corridors of the Central Valley are an attraction for human traffickers, because of the region's large immigrant population and demand for agricultural labor.
Pimps are known to target truck stops in the valley. Others distribute business cards with coded messages to attract customers to brothels set up in motel rooms or apartments. The brothels frequently are moved to different cities to avoid detection.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said last week he wasn't aware of any human trafficking cases in the county, but that the problem has caught the attention of law enforcement.
The Sheriff's Department is part of the North Central Anti-Trafficking Team, a partnership of federal, state and local agencies concerned with human trafficking in Northern California. Unfortunately, he said, the team has no designated source of funding.
"Our primary concern is children who are basically forced into the prostitution trade," Christianson noted. "That goes on in the United States, which is shocking given that we are supposed to be a civilized society. There are people who victimize children, and they do it for money."
Runaways as prostitutes
The sheriff said that underage prostitutes work on Modesto's South Ninth Street.
Authorities have found they are runaways who turn tricks to feed drug addictions. "We have not found cases where someone has exploited them against their will," he said.
When the young people are arrested, they are not held in Juvenile Hall merely for prosecution purposes. Resources are made available for those who want to get away from drugs and selling sex, Christianson said.
Laurel White, an executive assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, said child prostitution cases are difficult to investigate and prosecute.
When investigators contact the juveniles through online postings, they are reluctant to give information for building cases against their pimps. Because many of the victims are from abusive homes, they are put in safe houses and require resources such as medical care, mental health counseling and education while cases are prosecuted, White said.
"We hope to start linking with those nongovernmental agencies to identify current resources and develop additional capacity to better meet the needs of victims," White said.
The federal law regarding sex trafficking of minors calls for minimum sentences of 10 years to life in prison, or 15 years to life with a victim younger than 14. Prosecutors don't have to prove the juveniles were forced into prostitution.
California Against Slavery is working to put a statewide initiative before voters in 2012 that would increase penalties in the state anti-trafficking law.
On the Net:
www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking/ and http://californiaagainstslavery.org
Survivor educates youth on trafficking
May 3, 2011
by MaryAnn Kromer
Theresa Flores thought she did not fit the stereotype of a teen prostitute. She had two parents who did not abuse her. She did not spend time in foster care, never ran away and never used drugs. Yet, she found herself the victim of human trafficking at 15.
Now, she is a social worker, author and speaker who shares her firsthand experiences with others in hopes of alerting them to the dangers of this crime.
Flores was in Tiffin Thursday to meet with 55 students and teachers from eight Catholic schools in the Diocese of Toledo, including Calvert and St. Wendelin.
Those who attended received a packet of information, participated in group discussions and made plans to share the information with the student bodies at their schools.
The day began with Flores narrating a slide show describing sex trafficking, including statistics for the activity in the U.S. and Ohio, which is ranked fifth among the states.
With its extensive highways, rail and ship traffic, Ohio is a transit, destination and source state, Flores said. She said Ohio has more truck stops than any other state and the most universities and colleges.
Two thirds of the victims are "groomed" by an older person and tricked into sexual servitude against their will, she said.
Such was the case with Flores. Her father's job required the family to move every two years. They were living in an upscale suburb of Detroit when her nightmare began. At her high school, she developed a crush on a well-dressed young man, but her parents wouldn't let her date anyone. One day before track practice, Flores returned to get something from her locker to find this boy waiting there and offering her a ride home after practice.
As they left the parking lot, he turned the car the opposite way from where she lived, explaining he needed to pick up something at home first. They pulled in at a nice house.
"He said, 'Do you want to come in?' I said, 'No, my mom is waiting for me at home. I need to get home.' Then he said three words to me ... 'I like you,'" Flores said.
She ignored the uneasiness she was feeling and went in. He offered her a soft drink, which she accepted, not knowing it contained a drug. Then he raped her. When he did take her home, Flores was so ashamed, she could not tell her parents what had happened. She thought she could handle it on her own and not disappoint them.
"Unfortunately, that was the wrong thing to do ... A couple days later, he came up to me after school with an envelope ... He said 'I have pictures ... and you have to work to get them back,'" Flores recalled.
The boy threatened to distribute the pictures at school, at church and at her father's workplace if she did not cooperate. Without knowing what kind of "work" he was expecting from her, she agreed.
The phone in her room would ring in the middle of the night, demanding her services. She would walk to a place away from her home where the boy would pick her up. She was taken to "beautiful" private homes, where multiple men would have sex with her.
At 4 a.m., she would be back at home trying to get a couple hours of sleep before getting up for school. This went on several nights a week for two years.
"These guys were ruthless. ... They followed me everywhere I went. I walked to school every day, and it was not uncommon to have a car slowly follow me," she said. "I had a part-time job at Burger King, and sometimes they would come and just stand in the door."
Other times, they would call the house where she babysat, to show they knew where to find her. They threatened to kill her family if she told them and to kill her if she stopped. The only thought that sustained her was that the next time would be the last. She would get the pictures and it would be over.
"But there never was a next time," Flores said. "On the worst night of my life, I went out to meet that car and I had a bad feeling ... As that car pulled up, it was the same car, but there were different people in it."
She learned the men were from an underground organization. They pulled her into the car and drove her far away from the usual neighborhoods. They beat her and drugged her before stopping at a sleazy, inner city motel that was dirty and smelly.
"They dragged me from the car to an open door ... a tiny, tiny motel room with a bed and about 20 men waiting for me. I'm 16, standing there with all these men, and I'm terrified," Flores said.
Then someone announced she was something "the boss" had arranged for them. Flores was "auctioned off" to the highest bidder, over and over again. Eventually, she passed out. She was hurting and nauseous when she awoke. The men were gone, but she was nude.
Flores said she recalled a feeling of "total despair." She managed to find her shoes and clothing and get dressed. She had no identification, no money and no idea where she was.
"This is the way these girls live every day," she told the teens. "I had no idea how I was going to get out of this."
Flores worried about the men returning if she stayed, so she started walking and stumbling across the parking lot to a 24-hour diner.
"God always sends you angels in moments like this. He always does. ... I walked into this little diner and this waitress came up to me ... and she asked me something that nobody else did. 'May I help you?' Nobody ever asked that," Flores said.
Although there had been signs - frequent illness, lower grades, missing school - no one else had realized her desperate predicament. The waitress called the police, who took Flores home. The abuse continued for some time after that, but she considered herself blessed. When her family moved again, she was able to free herself from her slavery.
"Not only did I escape - some girls don't - I was able to take 10 years to heal, to graduate, go to college, become a mom and turn my life around and be able to take something horrible, something horrific, and turn it into good and save other girls from this," Flores said.
In addition to writing and speaking, she is preparing to open Gracehaven House (online at www.gracehavenhouse.org), a shelter for trafficked minor females. Located in rural Ohio, it will be a place for victims to go to school, take field trips, receive specialized counseling, learn life kills, and engage in gardening and animal therapy. Flores plans to have a staff member present at all times and a small number of long-term, trained volunteers. The shelter will not be locked, so she expects some clients to run away. Some will return. Others will not.
Flores said at least nine months of rehabilitation is needed for individuals to recover, but the girls will be able to stay as long as they need to until they are 18. In addition, foster families are being trained to provide an alternative to the residential facility and a transition to independent living.
Gracehaven is to be licensed as a group home, and funding will come from the juvenile courts and donations. People already are
calling to find out when it will open.
After her presentation, Flores took questions from the students. She said her parents and three brothers were told about her ordeal when her first book, "The Sacred Bath," was about to be released in 2007.
The people who enslaved Flores have moved on to other victims. Ohio did not have a specific law prohibiting sex trafficking until 2000, and the statute of limitations has run out for the prosecution of Flores' case.
She said prosecution of any case is difficult, because victims do not want to relive their ordeals by facing their persecutors in court. They, like Flores, just want their lives back.
She said she feels her current mission as an advocate is a calling from God.
"I felt humbled that I was allowed to live," she said.
Flores said the U.S. has fewer than 50 beds for rehabilitation of trafficking victims.
She said she was able to find healing through her studies in social work and a strong religious faith. Telling her story, keeping a journal and writing her books also enhanced her recovery.
Before inroads can be made to stop sex trafficking, Americans' attitudes must change, Flores said.
Although buying and selling sex are illegal, it is usually women who are arrested, not the "Johns" who pay for sex. Films and television programs often portray pimps and prostitutes as glamorous or humorous. In reality, she described the trade as violent and sordid.
Traffickers usually look like ordinary people, which makes it difficult to identify them as criminals, she said.
Flores concluded by thanking the students for their interest in such a serious issue.
"It's a heavy, heavy subject, but it's going to take all of you to help stop this," she said.
Before she left, Flores passed out flyers about "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes," an event to raise funds for Gracehaven House. It is planned for 6:30 p.m. June 18 at the Mall at Tuttle Crossing in Dublin. The registration fee is $50 per person.
Ian Maiberger and Charlie Wilson of Calvert said they learned much from Flores' talk.
Maiberger said he was surprised to learn the extent of the problem.
"It's all around in society," he said.
"It was very insightful on the underground society that does this," Wilson added.
Rodney Parks and Olivia Crawford of St. Wendelin also had high marks for Flores' program.
"Her personal story tied everything together," Parks said. "It could happen to anyone."
"I thought it was absolutely beautiful. It opened my eyes to this whole epidemic, and it forces us to be open," Crawford said.
The Traffic's Bad in L.A.
As a woman, I feel lucky to live in the United States. We may not be treated as perfect equals, and our government may refuse to ratify CEDAW, the international women's rights treaty, but at least we aren't subject to the suffering of women in other countries who are forced into sexual slavery.
Well, maybe I'm not, and maybe you're not, but plenty of girls (and boys) right in our backyards are. The FBI estimates 100,000 children are sold for sex in the United States each year . I'm not talking about girls from Thailand or Pakistan who end up here -- I'm talking about girls from right here in California who are forced into prostitution. Nicholas Kristof wrote an alarming op-ed column in the New York Times last week about how American girls are victims of sex trafficking more than we'd like to acknowledge.
The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines "trafficking" as:
|the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
Trafficking is not only about kidnapping children and sending them overseas, as we might imagine; it can include recruiting girls into prostitution, and abusing their vulnerability to prevent them from leaving.
It's difficult to address trafficking appropriately when part of the problem is our approach of blaming the victim. When a teenager in Nepal sells sex, we all accept that she must have had no choice. But when a sixteen-year-old in New York solicits on a street corner, we often treat her as a juvenile delinquent. Why? Maybe we assume that in a rich country like America, everyone has options. We overlook that the girl may have left a home where she was being abused before she was "rescued" off the street by a pimp offering food and shelter. This girl may not be aware of any way out -- or might be afraid for her life if she tries to leave. So what choice does she really have?
We assume that our child welfare and justice systems work well enough to protect at-risk kids -- if not from being targeted by predators, at least from being forced to stay under the dominion of one. They don't. And some of that is our fault, for failing to understand the complexities of teenage prostitution.
Kristof was moved by Girls Like Us , a new book by Rachel Lloyd. Ms. Lloyd writes from her own experience as a trafficking survivor. She loved her pimp, even as he terrorized her. For a girl who has always known abuse, love can be inseparable from pain. The dynamic of intimate violence is hard enough for adult women to break, let alone young girls. We have a responsibility to protect these kids, but in order to do that, we have to be aware that they need protecting. We have to acknowledge abuse as abuse, even when it may look consensual.
Ms. Lloyd will read from her memoir at an upcoming fundraiser for Human Rights Watch, Cries from the Heart. The event will take place on May 9th in Santa Monica. Attending this event is a great way to support the crucial work of Human Rights Watch -- and to have our eyes opened a bit about something we have trouble seeing.
Calvary Chapel Tackles Human Trafficking by Sponsoring Nearly 1,300 Children Through Compassion Inte
Church members at Calvary Chapel, located in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., sponsored nearly 1,300 children over the Easter weekend during a Compassion Sunday event for Compassion International, the world's largest Christian child development and sponsorship organization. The focus of the sponsorships was to engage the church in helping curb human and sex trafficking of children in high risk countries including Thailand, Brazil and Colombia.
"Poverty remains to be one of the largest contributors to the exploitation of children around the world. In many developing countries, impoverished children are highly susceptible to the pressures of human trafficking and the minor sex trade industry," said Outreach Pastor Chet Lowe of Calvary Chapel, Fort Lauderdale. "Sadly, in many cases, it's the children's families who are themselves desperate for money that push them into this horrible 'business.'"
A majority of the sponsorships were for children in Thailand, Brazil and Colombia because of the high levels of trafficking in those countries. Thailand and Brazil, for example, are considered to have the first and second worst child sex trafficking records respectively, and this is amid growing concerns that the situation in Brazil can worsen as that nation prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. In Colombia, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) estimates that as many as 35,000 women are trafficked each year with estimated profits of $500 million.
"Sometimes it's hard to believe that in a world that prides itself on 'enlightenment,' such a travesty as human and sex trafficking is taking place," said Mark Hanlon, senior vice president, USA, of Compassion International. "But inside our child development centers, every worker is trained to spot signs of child abuse. In fact, they may be a child's first line of defense."
"Ultimately, it all comes down to protecting a child's dignity as well as their physical and emotional health," Hanlon said. "Our children learn they are valued and loved and have every right to become all God created them to be."
Calvary Chapel had the opportunity to visit Colombia recently and was hosted by Carlos Escobar, the country director of Compassion Colombia. During their visit, they observed some of the training that Compassion offers regarding how to avoid being a victim of sex trafficking.
Over the course of a seven-year relationship with Compassion International, Calvary Chapel, Fort Lauderdale, has sponsored over 6,000 children.
Compassion International is the world's largest Christian child development organization that permanently releases children from poverty. Founded in 1952, Compassion successfully tackles global poverty one child at a time, serving more than 1.2 million children in 26 of the world's poorest countries. Recognizing that poverty is more than a lack of money, Compassion works through local churches to holistically address the individual physical, economic, educational and spiritual needs of children -- enabling them to thrive, not just survive. Compassion has been awarded ten consecutive, four-star ratings by Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.
Missing soldier's car found in Tampa
TAMPA - Investigators with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office are seeking the public's help in a missing person's case.
Jerry James Beck, an Army Soldier stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga., was reported missing by family members last week.
According to a HCSO report Beck's brown Toyota Corolla was found abandoned on Interstate 75 beneath the Leroy Selmon Expressway on Saturday. Investigators say the vehicle was first spotted at that location on April 27.
When the Florida Department of Transportation was notified the car belonged to the missing 35-year-old Beck it was towed away.
HCSO deputies, a K-9 Unit and the department's helicopter were all deployed to the area where the Toyota was found but so far no sign of Beck.
The car showed no signs of foul play and the keys were left inside. HCSO is working with the Hinesville, Ga. Police Department on the Beck case. If you have any information on his whereabouts please contact them at 813-247-8200 .
Allegations of child sex-trafficking imperils diplomatic immunity
Are diplomats getting away with human trafficking?
Four women claim in a civil lawsuit that a high-ranking Qatari diplomat in the United States, and his family, forced them to work around the clock for little pay while enduring emotional abuse and -- according to one woman -- sexual assault.
The human trafficking lawsuit was filed March 25 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., against Essa Mohamed Al Mannai, Qatar's second-highest ranking diplomat in the United States. The case has reopened debate over a problem that has vexed U.S. government agencies charged with making sure foreign officials, who enjoy the cover of diplomatic immunity, still obey U.S. laws and labor standards.
The lawsuit has also renewed criticism of the U.S. State Department, accused by human rights activists of not doing enough to address persistent complaints of abuse by visiting foreign officials.
Each year, about 3,500 visas are issued to domestic workers employed by diplomats and officials at international organizations like the World Bank. Between 2000 and 2008, 42 cases of alleged abuse of these laborers were discovered by the federal Government Accountability Office,which surveyed several agencies and non-governmental organizations. The 2008 report, titled “U.S. Government's Efforts to Address Alleged Abuse of Household Workers by Foreign Diplomats with Immunity Could Be Strengthened,” outlined factors that complicate investigations of abuse allegations — with diplomatic immunity at the forefront. Recommendations in the report to were directed to the Departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security.
The State Department “is ultimately stuck in a situation where they have to support diplomatic immunity because they want reciprocity” for U.S. diplomats in other countries, said Janie Chuang, a professor at the Washington College of Law at American University.
In response to the GAO findings, Congress beefed up the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, giving the State Department improved tools against trafficking while avoiding the dilemma of diplomatic immunity. That act allows the State Department to block visas to domestic workers seeking employment by diplomats from countries or international organizations with histories of abuse. A State Department spokesperson said the agency has taken some steps to address the problem, but refused to elaborate.
“The State Department could be doing more,” Chuang said in an interview with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
In 2010 Chuang published a law review article, “Achieving Accountability for Migrant Domestic Worker Abuse,” which questioned the State Department's handling of accusations of human trafficking against diplomats.
“In addition to its failure to provide remedies, the State Department inexplicably has refused to utilize even the powers it already possesses to hold diplomats accountable for trafficking abuses,” Chuang wrote.
Embarrassing Rogue Diplomats
The apparent lack of tougher action against alleged human trafficking by diplomats also calls into question recent claims by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the U.S. doesn't tolerate rights abuses by visiting officials.
“Whether they're diplomats or national emissaries of whatever kind, we all must be accountable for the treatment of the people that we employ,” Clinton said on February 1, in an address to the Interagency Taskforce to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Diplomatic Immunity, granted by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to protect foreign officials and ease their work abroad, makes it nearly impossible to hold accountable allegedly abusive diplomats. The lawsuit against Qatar's Essa Al Mannai may be thrown out because of that immunity.
The lawsuit by Al Mannai's domestic employees marks the second round of legal trouble in less than a year for the Qatari diplomatic team in Washington: In April 2010, Qatari diplomat Mohamed Yaaqob Al Madadi attempted to smoke a cigarette in an airplane lavatory during flight. When he was approached by air marshals, he allegedly joked that he was lighting his shoes on fire. In the end, two fighter jets were dispatched to accompany the United Airlines flight until it landed in Denver.
Al Madadi returned to Qatar the next day, amid State Department threats to place a “persona non grata” label on Al Madadi. That tag is one way U.S. officials have handled rogue diplomats. It requires a troublesome diplomat to leave the country, or else lose diplomatic immunity.
“At the end the day, all we have is the potential of embarrassing the diplomat or the diplomat's country,” Chuang said.
The State Department this week declined to say how many — and why — foreign diplomats have been pushed out of the country.
In another case, the Lebanese ambassador in Washington on Tuesday successfully invoked diplomatic immunity against charges of labor abuse brought last year by his former housekeeper.
The State Department each year submits a report to Congress on court cases that involve diplomatic immunity. It refused to provide those reports to ICIJ. However, the 2008 GAO report cites one case in which the State Department asked a country to waive the immunity of a diplomat's wife so she could be prosecuted. The diplomat's home country refused the request, and the couple left the U.S.
For some time the State Department has issued a yearly Trafficking in Persons report, which it touts as “the world's most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts.” The report ranks countries in tiers. Tier 1 holds countries working hardest to combat human trafficking; Tier 3 the negligent governments. Qatar has been in Tier 2 for the last two years. In 2008 it was in Tier 3.
Just One Example
Now a new controversy over human trafficking by foreign diplomats centers on an alleged pattern of actions by Mohamed Al Mannai's family in Qatar and in the Washington, D.C., area. (The family lived in a $1 million, six-bedroom home in Vienna, Va., a 30-minute drive from the Qatar embassy on M Street in downtown Washington.)
In Qatar, Al Mannai's mother and brother “recruited the women from their home countries [the Philippines and Indonesia] using Qatar-based labor-brokering agencies,” according to the complaint. When the women arrived in in Qatar, the Al Mannai family allegedly “arranged for fraudulent visas at the U.S. Embassy, made travel arrangements, and sent the women to the United
In their contracts, the women were promised $7.25 an hour for 40-hour work weeks in the United States. They ended up making as little as 55-cents an hour for being on duty “around the clock,” according to the complaint.
What started out as an enticing deal for the women — who, the complaint said, “bore significant responsibility to provide financial support to their children, husbands, parents and/or extended families” back home — became a workplace nightmare. They claim they were made responsible for every detail of the household operation, while facing verbal, emotional and even sexual abuse. One woman, “the house keeper,” cooked, cared for three of the family's children and cleaned the almost 5,000 square foot home. The other woman, “the nanny,” was allegedly required to always be with a fourth and seriously ill child, performing medical procedures, sleeping with the child – or on the child's bedroom floor at night – and then staying with the child in a Georgetown University hospital room for “months at a time.”
“The nanny was not permitted to leave the hospital ward for any reason,” according to the complaint. “Defendant Essa Al Mannai called the telephone next to the hospital bed periodically to make sure that the nanny was at her post.”
Essa Al Mannai's wife allegedly berated the women with profanities and allowed her children to repeat the taunts. The couple told the women that the United States was a “dangerous country” and that they would be harmed if they left the family, according to the complaint.
In the complaint, lawyers for the women also claim the employees feared the abuse would escalate – including the fears of one woman who alleged that Essa Al Mannai had sexually assaulted her.
Finally, with the help of two unidentified “Good Samaritans,” according to the complaint, the four women fled the residence in the dark of night, two of them through a window in June 2010 and the other two through a basement door in December 2010.
The plaintiffs are represented pro bono by the Jenner & Block law firm. Lawyers there declined comment for this story.
The Embassy of Qatar did not return requests for an interview. As of publication, the defendants have no attorney registered with the court, and no response has yet been filed. No hearings or appearances have been scheduled.
The State Department's calling out some countries over alleged abuses shows “that bringing servants into the U.S. and abusing them is not going to be tolerated,” said Christopher Burgess, a human rights activist and blogger.
To centralize cases and work with victims, Clinton established an anti-trafficking unit in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. That office did not respond to a request for interview.
In her February address on the problem, Clinton said: “We will also begin an annual briefing for visiting diplomats and their domestic workers as part of an ongoing effort … to protect domestic workers brought here by diplomats and raise awareness within the diplomatic community.”
Most Suspected Incidents of Human Trafficking Involved Allegations of Prostitution of an Adult or Ch
Most suspected incidents of human trafficking investigated between January 2008 and June 2010 involved allegations of adult prostitution (48 percent) or the prostitution or sexual exploitation of a child (40 percent), the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today.
Federally funded task forces, led primarily by local law enforcement agencies, investigated 2,515 incidents of suspected human trafficking between January 2008 and June 2010 . Although most incidents involved allegations of sex trafficking, 350 incidents involved allegations of labor trafficking in unregulated industries (e.g. drug sales, forced begging, or roadside sales) and/or more commercial industries (e.g. hair salons, hotels, and bars).
Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion. Any commercial sex act performed by a person under age 18 is considered human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion is involved.
Among the incidents with sufficient data quality, 30 percent were confirmed to be human trafficking, 38 percent were confirmed not to be human trafficking, and the remaining incidents were still open at the end of the study period. Law enforcement agencies reported 144 arrests. Of the 87 victims identified as foreign nationals, 21 received special visas and 46 applicants had pending visas or the visa status was unknown.
The task forces identified 527 confirmed human trafficking victims and 488 confirmed suspects during the study period.
Among the confirmed incidents, sex trafficking victims were overwhelmingly female (94 percent), compared to confirmed labor trafficking victims (68 percent female). About 13 percent of confirmed sex trafficking victims were 25 or older, while more than half (62 percent) of the confirmed labor trafficking victims were 25 or older.
Four-fifths of victims in confirmed sex trafficking cases were identified as U.S. citizens (83 percent), while most confirmed labor trafficking victims were identified as undocumented aliens (67 percent) or qualified aliens (28 percent).
Based upon cases where race was known, sex trafficking victims were more likely to be white (26 percent) or black (40 percent), compared to labor trafficking victims, who were more likely to be Hispanic (63 percent) or Asian (17 percent).
Most of the confirmed suspects were male (81 percent). More than half (62 percent) of confirmed sex trafficking suspects were black, while confirmed labor trafficking suspects were more likely to be Hispanic (48 percent).
Law enforcement agencies led nearly all (98 percent) of the suspected sex trafficking cases. Labor trafficking investigations were more likely to show evidence of collaboration among agencies. Eighty- two percent of labor trafficking cases identified multiple agencies as part of the task force team, while 49 percent of sex trafficking cases identified multiple agencies. Federal agencies were more likely to lead labor trafficking investigations (29 percent) than sex trafficking investigations (7 percent).
Data in this BJS report are from the Human Trafficking Reporting System (HTRS), which was designed to capture performance measures from law enforcement agencies in federally funded human trafficking task forces. The information in the report is provided in response to a congressional mandate for biennial reporting on the scope and characteristics of human trafficking incidents in the United States . HTRS is currently the only system that captures information on state and local law enforcement agency investigations of human trafficking incidents.
The report, Characteri s t ics of Sus p e cted Human Trafficking Incidents, 2 0 08-2010 (NCJ 233732), was written by BJS statisticians Duren Banks and Tracey Kyckelhahn . Following publication, the report can be found at http://www.bjs.gov.
For additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics' statistical reports and programs, please visit the BJS website at http://www.bjs.gov/.
The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson , provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has seven components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; the Community Capacity Development Office; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at http://www.ojp.gov.