[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
How does something like this even happen??
A teen became a sex trafficking victim after she went missing from a Dallas Mavericks game that she attended with her father — and was only found after her nude photos were posted online.
According to reports, the unidentified 15-year-old went to use a restroom before halftime of the Mavericks game against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 8. Surveillance footage showed the teen leaving the American Airlines Center, but not with her father, who was waiting for his daughter to return to her seat.
On April 18, she was, thankfully, found alive by police in an Oklahoma City hotel. Disturbingly, the girl’s parents identified her through nude photos that were posted on the internet in sex ads.
Officials have arrested eight people — including Kenneth Nelson (above, left), Sarah Hayes (above, middle), and Karen Gonzales (above, right) — in connection to the teen’s disappearance on a variety of charges. Nelson, Hayes, and Gonzales have all reportedly been charged with human trafficking, conspiracy, and computer crimes.
Police alleged that Nelson, a known sex offender, had an ID card with a different name that he was using to rent the hotel rooms in Oklahoma City. Gonzales is accused of taking the unlawful photos of the teen. While speaking with police, Hayes reportedly confessed that she saw the photos being taken and later posted them in the online sex ads.
However, attorney Zeke Fortenberry, who is representing the family, said others are to blame for the teen’s abduction. While speaking with KIII-TV, Fortenberry named the American Airlines Center, the Dallas Mavericks, the Dallas Police Department, and an Oklahoma City hotel, saying they could have done more to prevent the teen’s abduction.
The lawyer told the news station:
“Our intent is to put [these organizations] on notice that we’re pursuing claims against them for their negligence and other causes of action.”
Fortenberry explained that the teen’s father got in touch with police during the game when he realized his daughter had vanished. The man was apparently told to contact the North Richland Hills Police to report his missing daughter because that’s where they live — but infuriatingly, the North Richland Hills Police told the man they couldn’t help because the teen went missing in Dallas.
The lawyer added:
“The family was frustrated.”
Fortenberry said he’s also naming the Oklahoma City hotel because he believes the staff missed important “red flags,” sharing:
“When a 40-something year old man walks in with a 15-year-old girl and rents multiple hotel rooms and then there is traffic coming in and out of those rooms, those are red flags.”
One organization managed to receive high praise from the attorney: the Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative. The Houston-based trafficking agency used face-recognition technology to locate the nude photos of the teen, which then led to the Oklahoma City Police finding her and arresting the eight suspects.
Thank goodness the victim was found before it was too late.