A 15-year-old girl who had been missing for 11 days was found after sexually explicit images of her were posted on a prostitution website, leading authorities to locate her in a hotel room booked by a registered sex offender, reports Fox News.
Today eight people were arrested in connection with an alleged scheme to sell the girl for sex.
On April 8, the girl was at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas with her father watching a Mavericks game when she went to the bathroom. She never returned, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
Unbeknownst to her father, a man allegedly lured the teenager out of the arena, reports KRIV-TV.
The teen’s father alerted security and police that his daughter was missing, and authorities searched the facility but were unable to find the teen.
The Dallas Police Department notified a suburban police department where the girl lived that she was missing, but the department told Fox News it couldn’t do more because state law requires law enforcement to classify missing minors as runaways unless there is evidence that they disappeared unintentionally, such as by kidnapping.
The teen’s parents have asked the Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative for help in locating the teen. The group was eventually able to find explicit images of the girl on a prostitution website in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Oklahoma City police tracked the girl to an Extended Stay America hotel, where she was found on April 18.
Authorities then arrested eight people: Saniya Alexander, Melissa Wheeler, Chevaun Gibson, Kenneth Nelson, Sarah Hayes, Karen Gonzales, Thalia Gibson and Steven Hill.
Chevaun Gibson is facing a charge of offering to engage in prostitution. Nelson, Hayes and Gonzales have been charged with human trafficking and distributing child pornography, KFOR-TV reports. Hill was charged with rape. Alexander and Thalia Gibson have felony warrants, and Wheeler has a theft warrant.
“We are grateful for the work of the Oklahoma City Police Department and the recovery of our daughter,” the girl’s mother said in a statement, according to Fox News. “My heart breaks for the unimaginable things my daughter had to endure during the 11 days she was abducted, and I am so happy that she is safe as we work on her recovery.”
The teenager’s family are pushing for answers on why law enforcement hasn’t done more to help locate the girl. The family also believe Extended Stay America should have taken steps to protect the young daughter of Nelson, a registered sex offender, who booked the hotel room under an alias.
Court records obtained by KFOR-TV show that Nelson was with the victim on the day his photos were posted online.
Gonzales allegedly photographed the girl and posted them on the internet, according to the TV station.
“This girl is a minor and she was in the company of sex traffickers. And that’s setting off red flags and alarms in our minds,” Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department told KFOR-TV.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the “Crime Stories with Nancy Grace” podcast.
[Featured image: Top, L-R: Steven Hill, Karen Gonzales, Sarah Hayes and Thalia Gibson; Bottom, L-R: Shaniya Alexander, Chevaun Gibson, Melissa Wheeler and Kenneth Nelson/Oklahoma City Detention Center]