Monday, August 31, 2020

List Series: Tragic Cases of Suspected Trafficking

Human trafficking is an ongoing issue worldwide. Far too many people fall victim to traffickers each day--and many of those victims are females and/or minors. On a worldwide level, it is estimated that 99% of trafficking victims are women and girls. In 2016, it was estimated that 57,700 people were trafficked in the United States. An estimated 70% of those victims from the US are female. (source) The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 1 in 6 of all missing children are victims of trafficking. The following list contains 8 cases of women/girls who have vanished in the US who are suspected to be victims of trafficking.

The purpose of this list is to raise awareness on the issue of trafficking. More information can be found at this resource.  If you or someone you know is involved in sex trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 — or Text INFO or HELP to BeFree (233733).

The Disappearance and Murder of Nicholle Coppler

Nicholle Coppler was only 14 years-old when she vanished in Lima, Ohio on May 19th, 1999. She was classified as a runaway, but there were no reported sightings of her following her disappearance. Three years later, in 2002, a man named Glen Fryer was arrested and charged with raping a 12 year-old girl. Authorities searched Fryer’s home, and they found both Nicholle’s ID card and her diary among the possessions in the house. Nicholle’s diary had an entry that was dated May 24th, 1999–five days after her disappearance–that stated she had run away and wanted to return home, but the people she was staying with would not allow her to leave. From that point forward, Fryer became the prime suspect in Nicholle’s disappearance. Investigators eventually produced the theory that Fryer might have tried to force Nicholle into prostitution, but ended up killing her when she resisted.

Unfortunately, prosecutors never had the chance to charge Fryer with anything related to Nicholle’s disappearance. Four days after pleading no contest for the 2002 rape case, Fryer hung himself inside his jail cell. Nicholle remained missing in the years that followed, up until 2012 when the city of Lima obtained control of Fryer’s house after its taxes went unpaid. The house had been abandoned for years and was in very poor shape by this point. As a result, the city declared that the house was a safety hazard and planned to tear it down. A demolition team tore the house down in February 2012. As they began to dig up the house’s foundation, the demolition team found human bones. A coroner later confirmed that the bones belonged to Nicholle Coppler.

To this day, investigators still hope to identify other men who were believed to be in Fryer's home at the time of Nicholle's disappearance. [read more]

The Disappearance of Alexis Scott

Alexis Scott (20) disappeared from Peoria, Illinois on September 22nd, 2017. According to her family members, Alexis had survived a kidnapping just three weeks before her disappearance after a trip to Las Vegas. Alexis, along with two males and one other female, had taken the trip to Vegas in late August with hopes of making some extra money working as go-go dancers after the Floyd Mayweather fight. According to Alexis’ mother, April Allen, from there Alexis was kidnapped, drugged, then transported to Sacramento, California and entered into a sex trafficking ring. She managed to escape, partially naked and beaten, by running into the street and flagging down a woman who let Alexis borrow her phone. Alexis then called her mother, who sent her a bus ticket back to Illinois. She returned to her hometown in Peoria, but she feared retaliation from her alleged kidnappers.

On the evening of her disappearance, Alexis went out in downtown Peoria with friends. Afterwards, she was invited to an after party. A cab driver dropped Alexis off at a house on Richmond Avenue at 5:15am. The cab driver later told police that a man greeted Alexis at the cab’s door and paid her fare. This is apparently the last official confirmed sighting of her. Investigators have stated that there is "no concrete evidence" that Alexis ever left that home.

Alexis' family members fear that she was trafficked again. The man who owns the house where Alexis was last seen is apparently affiliated with a person involved in trafficking Alexis during the Vegas trip. The details of this affiliation have not been publicly revealed. Alexis' case remains unsolved. [read more]

The Disappearance of Danica Childs

Danica Childs vanished at the age of 17 on December 21st, 2007. Prior to her disappearance, Danica was living with her mother and siblings in an apartment in Federal Way, Washington. A few days after she vanished, her purse, coat and cellular phone were found at a Sunset Motel in Kent—an area that is well known for prostitution activity. According to her mother, Danica was dating a man who was rumored to be a pimp at the time of her disappearance and had been spending nights out with him on a frequent basis. Danica denied these rumors, but when she did not return home on December 21st, her mother began to fear that the rumors were in fact true.

Messages on Danica’s phone confirmed her mother’s fears, and also revealed that Danica, who was still a minor, was working as a prostitute herself. Her phone was reportedly filled with several sexually-explicit messages from clients. Due to this, authorities believe that Danica left on her own accord. However, Danica’s family members do not believe that Danica would leave her cell phone or other belongings behind, and they also do not think she would go this long without contacting them. Her mother fears that she was kidnapped and sold against her will. [read more]

The Disappearance of Natanalie Perez

Natanalie Perez had only lived in Miami for six months when she vanished on June 1st, 2012. The media has not reported much on the 19 year-old's disappearance, however a nonprofit called the Anti-Predator Project has worked with Natanalie's family to spread awareness about her case. It was the Anti-Predator Project that first reported that Natanalie is believed to be a victim of trafficking.

One of the Anti-Predator Project blog posts reads, “[Natanalie] was lured to Miami from a small town in central Florida in January of 2012 with the promise of a job in the music industry. Once she arrived in Miami she was beaten, gang raped, and stripped of her identification. After that she was sold online via out of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach and the Hyatt in Miami. Natanalie was last seen by her boyfriend outside the Burks Motel in Miami on June 1, 2012 when she took a phone call on his cell phone, got into a mysterious car with unknown individuals and drove off. She has not been seen or heard from since. Obviously we believe that her trafficker were involved in this but due to integrity of the investigation we cannot release their names. We are looking for anyone who may know something about this case.” The police have not confirmed whether or not this is true, but they have stated that they do not believe she is missing on her own accord. Natanalie's case remains unsolved. [read more]

The Disappearance of Sophie Reeder

Sophie Reeder has been missing since May 19th, 2017. She was only 15 years-old when she vanished. Sophie left her family's Fort Lauderdale, Florida that evening and never returned home. She has been classified as a runaway, however investigators believe she may have been a victim of human trafficking or an online predator. Sophie has run away once before, but was only gone for a day. 

This time around, she left behind all of her belongings and there has not been any activity on her mobile devices since the day she disappeared. Investigators were able to search Sophie’s computer after she vanished; it was there that they found evidence that she may have fallen victim to human traffickers or an online predator. However, investigators have not elaborated on said evidence and there are very few other details on what exactly they found on her computer.

All searches for Sophie have turned up empty. She remains missing today. [read more]

The Disappearance and Murder of Alesha Bell

Alesha Bell vanished at the age of 18 on July 23rd, 2015. That afternoon, Alesha left her mother's Warren, Ohio home after saying she was going to walk to a relative's house. Sometime after leaving, Alesha sent her mother a text message saying, “Mom, if I make it home, I need you. I’m scared.” Her mother tried texting and calling Alesha multiple times after that, but her texts went unanswered and her calls went straight to voicemail. Alesha never made it to her relative's house as planned and was never seen or heard from again.

A month after Alesha vanished, police in Warren raided the home of 40 year-old James Brooks to look for drugs. While searching in the woods behind Brooks' house, police found human remains in a fire pit. It was immediately believed that the remains belonged to Alesha. By this point, police had determined that Brooks was the last person to see Alesha before she vanished. Brooks was familiar to Alesha's family as well--as he attended high school with her mother. Upon the discovery of human remains in his backyard, Brooks was arrested and charged with abuse of corpse amongst many other unrelated charges.

Forensic testing later confirmed that the remains did, in fact, belong to Alesha. A few months later, Brooks received many additional charges, including two counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count drug trafficking, kidnapping, abduction, tampering with evidence, compelling prostitution, and possession of cocaine, heroin and criminal tools. At that time, prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci announced that he believed Brooks was using Alesha and several other girls in a sex trafficking ring that he was involved in. For reasons unknown, the trafficking charges against Brooks were eventually dropped. On February 1st, 2017, Brooks pleaded guilty to all charges related to Alesha’s death. He was sentenced to a total of 30 years in prison. Despite the fact the trafficking charges were dropped, the authorities and many other people believe that Brooks has other victims from his sex trafficking service. [read more]

The Disappearance of Brittanee Drexel

Brittanee Drexel vanished at the age of 17 on April 25th, 2009. She is originally from Rochester, New York, but she disappeared while on a spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Brittanee was last seen leaving the Blue Water Resort, where a few friends were staying. She left the resort to return to her own hotel, but unfortunately she never arrived. Brittanee was never seen or heard from again.

Years passed without any trace of Brittanee. Then, in June 2016, the FBI held a press conference, stating that they had finally determined what happened to Brittanee. They announced that Brittanee was taken from Myrtle Beach to the McClellanville area. She was then held against her will inside a house that is well known for prostitution activity. Brittanee was reportedly there for a few days before she was killed while trying to escape. Brittanee still remains missing and no arrests have ever been made, however the FBI has confirmed that they are certain that this is what happened to her.

McClellanville local Timothy Da’Shaun Taylor has been named as a suspect in the case, but he denies all involvement. At this time, he has never been charged with anything related to Brittanee's case. [read more]

The Disappearance of Corinna Slusser

Corinna Slusser vanished at the age of 19 on September 20th, 2017. The teen had recently moved to New York City before her disappearance. After being in the city for a bit, Corinna's mother learned that Corinna had taken out a restraining order against a man named Yhovanny Peguero. Corinna reportedly acted like it was not a big deal when her mother questioned her about it. However, once Corinna vanished, investigators announced that they believed Yhovanny was Corinna's pimp.

Over a year after Corinna's disappearance, investigators announced that a 23 year-old man named Ishi Woney was arrested and charged with sex trafficking and sexually exploiting young women. It was later announced that Corinna Slusser was one of the young women exploited by Woney. News reports state that Corinna became associated with Woney and another female victim in early September 2017, after Corinna took out a restraining order against her former pimp Yhovanny Peguero. The trio rented a room at Bronx motel that is well-known for prostitution. Between September 10th-September 20th, Corinna and Woney exchanged over 800 text messages. On September 20th, Corinna and the other female victim reportedly got into an argument because the female victim was jealous of Corinna’s relationship with Woney. After that, Corinna moved to a motel in Queens, where she was last seen.

Corinna has not been seen or heard from by her family members since September 20th, 2017. NYPD detectives allegedly told Corinna’s family that they believe Corinna is now being held in a sex trafficking ring against her will. They also believe that she has been passed through several different pimps and possibly has been taken out of the New York area. Corinna unfortunately remains missing today. [read more]

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