July 17, 2008 -- Three years ago, two teenage cousins set off for a 15-minute walk to get milkshakes, strolling along the same path they had taken countless times before. But on that May afternoon, an unplanned diversion led to an unthinkable disaster. Soon, their innocence was lost forever.
Fifteen-year-old Kimberly and her 14-year-old cousin, Carol, grew up best friends in quintessential Middle America. (Their real names are not being used to protect their privacy.)
As summer approached, the girls made a habit of walking through their residential neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio, and down Main Street until they reached the fast-food restaurant Wendy's, where they bought Frostys, an icy treat.
Kimberly recalled their frivolous intentions as though it were yesterday. "I was just in the mood for Frostys really bad. Just getting Frostys and walking back."
Kimberly's mom, Stephanie, thought nothing of the request. "They came home from school. Their chores were done, and their homework was done. Dinner was going to be another hour and a half, two hours, so, yeah, go ahead. It's not that far."
What should have been a half-mile walk ended up taking the girls a lot farther from home than they'd ever imagine. During the walk, the skies became dark and it started to rain. In what seemed like perfect timing, a familiar face pulled up beside the cousins in a white Lincoln.
At the time, Kimberly believed the man in the passenger seat was a classmate's father who she knew as Mike.
"He was in the passenger seat and a girl was driving. And he said that his name was Mike, and they offered us a ride up to Wendy's, so stupidly I get in [with my cousin]," she said.
The white car never made its way to Wendy's. Instead, under the dark, rainy sky, Kimberly noticed that the man who was going to give them a lift to the restaurant was not her friend's father after all. He took a sudden detour and forced the girls into a brick house just miles across town from their home.
"We get into the house and he locks the door, and he sets the alarm and says, 'You know, you're not leaving,'" Kimberly said.
The cousins were in shock and had no idea that they had just entered the dark and secretive world of sexual exploitation.
It Happens in America, Too
It's estimated that there are currently 100,000 minors in America being forced to trade sex for money. Pimps target the most trusting or vulnerable teens to fill out their stable of working girls and lure them in with promises of riches, love, or in the most extreme cases, brutal force.
FBI Special Agent Mike Beaver helped launch the FBI's Innocence Lost Initiative five years ago to help identify children involved in commercial sex and the predators that recruit them. The efforts have led to the conviction of 308 individuals on a combination of state and federal charges, and to the recovery of 433 child victims, but it's still difficult for most Americans to believe their children are at risk.
"There are children throughout the United States who are being sold as prostitutes," Beaver said. "It's not uncommon to see 12- and 13-year-olds out. What we've learned is if you have adult prostitution in an area, there's probably child prostitution occurring as well. So it's more of a black market; it's more underground, but it's there."
Kidnapped by a Pimp
Inside the house, the two girls found out that the once-friendly man who offered to give them a ride was actually a violent pimp named Deric Willoughby. He has a long rap sheet for drugs and violent crime, including the kidnapping and sexual assault of a minor that was never prosecuted.
On the street, Willoughby went by the alias "Machiavelli," the master of manipulation, but in his home he insisted on being called "Daddy."
His accomplices were prostitutes Jennifer Husky, who went by the name of "Kashimir," and Brandy Shope, who called herself "Envy." Kimberly and Carol were quickly separated and given a crash course on what would be expected of them.
At first, what felt like a sick dream turned into an even worse reality for Kimberly.
"Envy takes me downstairs and Cashmere takes my cousin upstairs," Kimberly said. "And she explained to me you know, what I had to do, like that I had to sleep with men for like money and stuff. She was like, 'You'll be a prostitute for Daddy.' [That's] what she called him. And she was like, 'And you have to call him Daddy.'"
During the next 24 hours the girls were fitted for skimpy outfits, assigned fake names (Ambrosia and Heavenly), and taught the rules of prostituting.
Kimberly remembered that "The guys can't touch you without paying more. No kissing on the lips, no scratching, no hickies, you know. And they said that, you know, just act like you're likin' it. You know, I didn't want to do any of this. I wanted to just -- knock him out and run."
The last bit of advice, given out during what's called the "seasoning period," made it impossible for the two cousins to run away.
"They said if you do anything wrong, we're gonna hurt your cousin and that really hit home. It's like a mind game because she's my best friend, and so I didn't want to do anything wrong because I didn't want her hurt," Kimberly said.
Escape Is Not an Option
University of Toledo sociologist Celia Williamson, who researches the sexual exploitation of teenagers, said that the fear used to keep Kimberly and her cousin in line is a common tool in the sex trade.
"Somebody is always walking her to the next date and walking her back. She comes back and she's locked in the apartment with other girls," she said. "So the reason that a girl who, let's just say was snatched, doesn't just run to the first police officer, the first person that she sees and says, you know, 'I'm being held against my will,' is because that pimp says to her, 'I will hurt your family, I will hurt your siblings. You better not say anything to anybody.' Until she can find a way to escape, make eye contact, tell someone during the 'seasoning period,' she's not going to get away."
By day the girls were locked in a home in a peaceful neighborhood while at night they were forced to have sex with men for money in Toledo motels. They earned up to $500 a "date," all of which went to their pimp.
After nine days, as their parents frantically searched for them, Willoughby moved the cousins 90 minutes out of town to a Michigan truck stop where they were told to service driver after driver.
Beaver said pimps transport young girls like Kimberly and Carol to truck stops because they're relatively hidden.
"The truck stops are unique in how they're used to market children," he said. "They're isolated, they're out of the public view, and they're traditionally out of the law enforcement view."
Kimberly and Carol were soliciting drivers one evening around 1 a.m. when a trucker became disgusted that such young-looking girls were seeking to provide "commercial company," a term used to describe the trade of sex for money at truck stops.
A Long-Awaited Rescue: For One
Deputies from the Washtenaw County Sherriff's Department arrived at the scene. They had seen prostitutes at truck stops before, but when they approached the truck where Kimberly had hidden they asked the occupants to step out.
"Two of them had identification -- the truck driver and one of the females, who was an adult. The other one [Kimberly], who didn't have identification, gave a false identity, false name and date of birth," he said.
Even in the face of a possible rescue, Kimberly lied to the police and repeated the fake information that the pimp, "Machiavelli," had forced her to memorize during the "seasoning period."
She was terrified of Willoughby, who lurked nearby, and worried about what he might do to her or her cousin if she told the truth.
Cashmere and the truck driver, Richard Gordon, were sent away with a warning, and Kimberly was now alone with the police. At that time she felt safe enough to tell the truth, said Minzey.
"Once they had left she told us that she was much younger and gave us her real name, which we ran through the computer and found out that she was missing out of Toledo, Ohio," he said.
Kimberly had been rescued. The police rushed her to the nearest hospital. But all she could think about was her cousin Carol, who was being held in a separate truck. Before police could rescue the 14-year-old, Willoughby left, taking Carol back to the house where she had originally been imprisoned with her cousin.
The Michigan police put out an all-points bulletin for a white Lincoln with a black male driver and "possibly two white females in the vehicle." They also alerted the Toledo Police Department with the information Kimberly had provided.
Kimberly's grateful mother and her cousin's father picked her up from the hospital, relieved that one of the girls was safe. They feared the worst for the other. The family raced back to Toledo to the house where Kimberly remembered having been held captive. Since she knew the street name and recalled that it was a brick house, Kimberly was able to direct her parents to the correct address on Downing Avenue. They were expecting to find the police. Instead, they found Carol's sneakers outside.
The Police Arrive, 1½ Hours Later
The family called 911 and waited. After 40 minutes, the family called again. Then family members heard Carol's cries for help coming from the house. During one 911 call, Kimberly's mother screamed into the phone. "She's upstairs! My niece is in the house. I need the cops now!"
Carol's father finally decided he could wait no longer. He grabbed a crowbar from the back seat and broke into the house by smashing a window. A fight ensued between him, Willoughby and the two adult prostitutes that spilled onto the front lawn, causing nearby residents to call 911. One concerned neighbor told the emergency operator, "It's a fight across the street now. There's a guy beating up another guy on the grass. These people are beating this man. They hit him with a rock. His head's all bleeding and there's no police here yet."
Kimberly remembers seeing her uncle getting beaten by her captors. "Deric [the pimp] had blood on his face, and he was holding my uncle down. And the two girls were pounding big old rocks into his head."
An ambulance arrived, and next came WTVG, an ABC affiliate. But there was still no sign of the police. Ninety-three minutes later the police arrived at the scene.
Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre explained that the slow response time was based on the lack of available patrol cars.
'You Lose Your Self-Respect
The police began questioning Willoughby and the women in the house. At first, Willoughby lied, saying that he was a clothing salesman. An hour later the detectives made it clear they weren't playing games.
But soon after the arrest, Willoughby, Envy and Cashmere were released on bail. They were free but not for long. The FBI's Innocence Lost Initiative was busy building a case against them. Eventually, seven months after the cousins were first kidnapped off the streets of their hometown, Willoughby, Gordon (the truck driver who transported them from Toledo to Michigan), and the two adult prostitutes were all indicted in federal court and pleaded guilty. Kimberly decided to testify. Please click HERE to read the statement she made to the judge prior to sentencing.
Carol, now 17 and safe at home, had a strong message for the pimp who kept her against her will. "I hate what he did to me, and my cousin, and what he did to my dad," she said. "And he thinks -- he calls himself a man, a man would not do that. A man would not take two young teenagers from their lovely homes, and do that to them."
Kimberly, now 18, described her own personal struggle. "You feel like crap," she said. "You feel like -- you lose your self-respect."
She said she knows speaking out will help her feel better. "I'm letting other girls know -- 'watch out.' So hopefully, I helped somebody, and I told my story so that people can watch out for themselves," she said.
Deric Willoughby pleaded guilty to the following charges:
Interstate transportation of minors for prostitution
Aiding and abetting interstate transportation of minors for prostitution
He was sentenced to eight years in federal prison on March 25, 2008. Click HERE to read his sentencing memorandum.
Brandy Shope (Envy) and Jennifer Husky (Cashmere) each pleaded guilty to:
Interstate transportation of minors for prostitution
Aiding and abetting interstate transportation of minors for prostitution
They were each sentenced to 6 ½ years in federal prison on April 17, 2007.
Richard Gordon, the truck driver, pleaded guilty to:
He was sentenced to five years in prison on March 11, 2008.