Oklahoma City authorities have arrested and charged eight people after a 15-year-old Texas girl was allegedly trafficked from a Dallas Mavericks game at the American Airlines Center back on April 8th.
The girl went to use the bathroom while attending the Mavericks game with her father and she wouldn’t be seen again for well over a week. Her father “immediately notified AAC security, staff, and Dallas [p]olice [o]fficers of her disappearance.” By the time the game ended, she “had not been found,” and her father was instructed to return home.
The family’s attorney, Zeke Fortenberry of the Fortenberry Firm, says the Dallas Police Department (DPD) never opened an investigation into the case despite multiple pleas from the victim’s parents.
“My daughter was missing in Dallas, this is a Dallas case, but they refused to open a case for her,” the girl’s father said of the DPD.
The DPD stated an officer conducted a search at the April 8 Mavericks game. Beyond that, the department pointed to Texas Family Code (51.03 b. 3), which “dictates that missing juveniles are investigated as runaways unless there are circumstances which appear as involuntary such as a kidnapping or abduction.”
“Those cases per code are to be filed where the juvenile resides,” the department said. “A report was generated by Dallas Police and Dallas Police assisted the North Richland Hills Police Department (lead agency as that was where the teen resided) and a bulletin about the missing teen was created and went out to the department on April 11, 2022.”
The family would turn to a nonprofit handling Texas trafficking cases called the Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative (TXCTI) to help them locate their daughter. The organization was able to track down explicit images of the victim on a prostitution website out of Oklahoma City.
She was gone for 10 days until authorities located her at an Extended Stay America hotel in Oklahoma City on April 18th.
The Oklahoma City Police Department has arrested Saniya Alexander, Melissa Wheeler, Chevaun Gibson, Kenneth Nelson, Sarah Hayes, Karen Gonzales, Thalia Gibson and Steven Hill in connection to the trafficking case. Gibson is charged with offering to engage in prostitution; Nelson, Hayes and Gonzales are charged with human trafficking and distribution of child pornography; Hill is charged with rape; Gibson and Alexander have felony warrants; and Wheeler has a robbery warrant.
Fortenberry said in the press release that a fraudulent ticket seller known to the AAC and Mavericks may have sold a fake ticket to a male suspect who allegedly lured the victim from the sports center.
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“The systems and organizations involved in this case continually failed the victim. She should never have had contact with the man at the Mavericks game. The Dallas Police should have worked quickly to investigate leads and locate the teenager before she was trafficked to Oklahoma,” Fortenberry said in a statement. “The Extended Stay America hotel in Oklahoma City put profits ahead of people by turning a blind eye to the sexual exploitation occurring right before their eyes. This victim’s life will forever be changed. We hope to hold accountable those responsible and create change within these organizations so that this never happens to any other child.”