Parents of Texas teenager who left Dallas Mavericks game speak out on human trafficking case
DALLAS -- The parents of a 15-year-old Texas girl who in April left a Mavericks game with an unidentified man, ultimately prompting a human trafficking investigation, are speaking out to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Kyle and Brooke Morris, in an interview with ESPN and "Good Morning America," said they want their daughter's story to be a cautionary one about the dangers of human sex trafficking and how laws governing the crime are applied.
"We just want to make sure people understand ... that something like this can happen to anyone anywhere," Kyle Morris said. "Even if you don't think it's possible, there's people out there that they want to make it happen."
Police found the girl as she walked on the side of a road in Oklahoma City 10 days after Morris, her stepfather, reported her missing from American Airlines Center in Dallas. She had been taken to an Oklahoma City hotel, where she was sexually assaulted multiple times, starved and not allowed to bathe, according to her parents and their lawyer.
The nonprofit Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative helped find the girl through an online ad soliciting sex.
Three people were arrested in Oklahoma City and charged with human trafficking and other offenses. Their cases are pending.
The parents said their daughter is safe, has entered treatment to recover from her trauma and is doing well. The girl has given her parents permission to discuss the case publicly, according to the family's lawyer. ESPN is not naming her because she is a minor.
The girl told her mother a couple of days after she was found that she had met "so many other girls" in Oklahoma.
"And she said, 'I wonder how long they have been in this life, but no one looked for them,'" Brooke Morris said.
Kyle Morris, a Mavericks season-ticket holder, said that on the night of the April 8 game against the Portland Trail Blazers, he and his stepdaughter were in the Platinum level of the arena. Just before halftime, the girl told him she needed to use the bathroom. He said she did not have her phone and left her ID and debit card at her seat. When she didn't return, he alerted security, which searched restrooms and inside the arena. Morris said an off-duty police officer working the game told him that surveillance video had shown the girl walking out of the arena and that she was last seen entering a nearby parking garage.
Zeke Fortenberry, the family's lawyer who has seen the surveillance video, said the girl did not appear to leave by force. Kyle and Brooke Morris said their daughter has a history of leaving home without their permission. In those instances, Kyle Morris said, she had left with people she knew, even leaving a note in at least one instance.
"This time," he told ESPN, "... everything about it was different."
Fortenberry said American Airlines Center and the Mavericks have been helpful in trying to determine what happened. Kyle Morris said he found an email address for Mark Cuban and emailed the Mavericks owner, who responded within minutes, adding people who could help and telling them to use whatever resources they needed.
"What happened to the unnamed teen after she walked away from the American Airlines Center facilities on April 8, 2022, is tragic, and the American Airlines Center and Dallas Mavericks are glad she is now safe and wish her well on her road to recovery," said a statement provided to ESPN by lawyer Scott C. Thomas, responding on behalf of the American Airlines Center and the Mavericks.
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