DALLAS, Tex. (KFOR) — The family of a Texas girl who was found in the midst of a sex trafficking scheme in Oklahoma City back in April feels like they were failed in several ways.
“While we’re thankful for the people that did take action, we’re very disappointed in those who didn’t take any action,” said the family’s attorney, Zeke Fortenberry. “Just unthinkable, a young 15-year-old girl was human trafficked and sold for sex in Oklahoma City.”
On April 8, the 15-year-old girl went to the restroom while at a Dallas Mavericks game with her father.
“After five to ten minutes, it seemed like a little bit too long. The father got up to go look for his daughter and she couldn’t be found,” said Fortenberry.
Fortenberry says the father went to look for her after she did not return and immediately notified American Airlines Center (AAC) security, staff, and Dallas Police officers of her disappearance.
She was later seen leaving the AAC with an unknown man.
After 6 days, the family contacted the Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative who discovered the 15-year-old’s nude photos were posted on a website known for prostitution.
That same day, Oklahoma City Police Department’s Vice Unit received tips from the Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative that the teen was trafficked for sex purposes in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City Police were able to locate the victim who was being held at an Extended Stay America hotel – ultimately making arrests and recovering the victim on Monday, April 18.
Eight people were ultimately arrested for their involvement.
“These people played a role in trying to get this girl trafficked for sex,” said Mgst. Gary Knight with the Oklahoma City Police Department.
Now the victim’s family is speaking out about what they say are crucial mistakes made.
The first, the Dallas Police Department telling them she could only be reported missing in their “home city.”
“But, when he reported it in his home city, that police agency was helpful but said this didn’t happen in our jurisdiction and he got to call Dallas and so he got stuck in this no man’s zone,” said Fortenberry. “Dallas Police never began an investigation and failed to make any efforts to locate the teenage girl.”
According to their attorney, the family is also questioning why the suspect was allegedly allowed in the AAC with a fake ticket.
“Had they enforced their policies to have a real ticket to be in that area, this could never have happened,” said Fortenberry.
Lastly, they’re alleging the hotel ignored glaring red flags.
“A 15 year old girl checked in with a man in his forties, and that man checked in with a fake I.D. and he’s a registered sex offender,” said Fortenberry.
The teen is now safe at home, but experts fear the trauma may be permanent.
“That is something that doesn’t go away. It it is now going to be a part of this girl’s life for the rest of her life,” said Keri Spencer, the founder of Restoring Identities after Sexual Exploitation (RISE). “It is now something that’s happened to her. The thing is, though, it just doesn’t have to define her. Counseling and finding someone who is skilled in counseling, people who have had trauma like that is super important for her.”
KFOR reached out to the Dallas Police Department, the American Airlines Center, and the Extended Stay America hotel. Dallas PD told News 4 they do not have a comment. AAC and Extended Stay America did not get back to us.