Man coerced 7th-grader into prostitution, cops say
Police say a 12-year-old girl was coerced into prostitution by a man who befriended her and then ordered her to have sex with a stranger...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Police say a 12-year-old girl was coerced into prostitution by a man who befriended her and then ordered her to have sex with a stranger, even telling her what prices to charge for various acts.
The girl's frantic family found the seventh-grader in Seattle on Sunday after the man's fiancee learned what was happening and called the girl's sister, police said. The 23-year-old suspect was arrested Thursday and is being held for investigation of child rape and promoting prostitution.
"She was approached by a predator," Detective Bryan Van Brunt said.
The girl's family, who had filed a missing-persons report when she failed to return home Jan. 9, was "overjoyed" that they found her safe, and they plan to have her enrolled in counseling, police said.
Seattle police say the girl is the youngest they've come across in a prostitution investigation in recent years. Though vice detectives say they bust prostitutes as young as 14, it's almost unheard of to find a 12-year-old girl coerced into streetwalking, they said.
"I'm disgusted. I'm overwhelmed with concern," police Sgt. Ryan Long said. "What I'm afraid of is what ones [girls] aren't we discovering?"
The suspect, who is not being named because he hasn't been charged, is described by police as a transient with "a significant criminal history." The man has been convicted of escape and two counts of possession of stolen property, and has been booked into the King County Jail on various charges seven times in the past 11 months.
The North Seattle girl told police that she met the 23-year-old man through a mutual friend on Jan. 9 and he invited her to hang out, Long said.
The Seattle Times generally does not name victims of sex crimes.
"You wouldn't think she was even an 18-year-old. It was abundantly clear she was a juvenile," Long said.
When she failed to return home that night, her family filed a missing-persons report.
Police said the man had unprotected sex with her that night and several times over the next several days.
The girl told police that she never called home because she couldn't find her cellphone. Police are looking into whether the suspect discarded it.
During the five days, the two stayed at the homes of several women who described themselves as the suspect's fiancées, Long said.
One evening the girl walked the streets of South King County with orders from the man to work as a prostitute, police said. The man allegedly told her the exact prices to charge for each sex act.
One man paid the tall, baby-faced girl for sex, police said. When the customer asked her age, she said she "wasn't supposed to tell him," police said. As ordered, she turned the money over to the 23-year-old man.
One of the suspect's "fiancées" became angry about the girl and called a phone number she found in a school binder that the girl left at her house, police said.
The person who answered turned out to be the girl's sister. She asked the angry woman where the two could be found, and the woman directed her to downtown Seattle, police said.
"The family went down looking for her," Long said.
Police said relatives found the girl Sunday night with the man in downtown Seattle.
"They just ran up and took her," Long said. "He was a little argumentative at first, but the relative who did the finding is a big guy."
The girl's family had been calling the department daily since Jan. 9 and believed that the missing-persons division wasn't working fast enough, police said.
"They were ready to start calling everybody, including congressmen," Long said. "They were reaching out trying to get answers, trying to get people to start looking."
Relatives took the girl to Harborview Medical Center, where a rape examination was performed, Long said. The family then went to the department's West Precinct and notified police that they had found her.
On Wednesday afternoon, the case was forwarded to Long and Van Brunt. After talking to the 12-year-old girl, they found the suspect on a West Seattle street.
"It was pure happenstance," Long said. "We were looking for locations we thought we might find him in the future."
The man told police that the two had been having consensual sex, according to an arrest report. But sex with a 12-year-old is a crime because the age of consent in Washington state is 16.
According to detectives, the man's acquaintances say he has befriended other young girls, raping them as well as coercing them into prostitution.
Long said he has talked to the 12-year-old girl at length over the past several days and is surprised by her strength.
"She is doing remarkably well, for all things considered," he said. "I had a rather personal conversation with her for a while and I was impressed with her resilience and her resolve."
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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