Human trafficking in the US

I found this article about human trafficking within the United States. It mentions Marla Gene Owen, a fourteen-year-old runaway from California who was profiled on Charley. She got involved in prostitution pretty much instantly and was eventually taken out of state. It was very sad. But her father was dedicated to finding her and he never stopped looking. Marla finally came home on her own, but by then she had a drug problem and she continued to run away from home and get in trouble with the law. She now 19 years old and estranged from her father. The article provides a good summary of how ordinary teenage girls get sucked into that kind of life:

Turner said Marla met the profile for victims of human trafficking perfectly. She was shy, quiet, not likely to question those she perceived as being in charge and had fragile self-esteem.

The girls often don’t get, or don’t think they get, enough attention and affection at home, the detective said.
The pimps are almost always well into their 20s, and often in their 40s while the average age of most victims who fall prey is 12, Turner said.

The pimps also put victims through a program of sorts, one well-documented and glorified in movies and books, that includes a period of charm training and gifts as well as abuse and molestation, Turner explained.

(Good god, that profile sounds like ME as I was ten years ago.)

Ellen Hopkins’s novel Tricks, about five teens from different parts of the country who all become prostitutes for different reasons, features one character from a wealthy family who fits that profile to a T — except she was a little older, fifteen. She wasn’t close to her parents or her sister, and she and her mother really didn’t get along. She met a pimp who suckered her into running away with him and within weeks he’d gotten her addicted to heroin and soon had her turning tricks and doing child porn in Vegas.

I would like to share stories like this with people who wonder why the cops bother to look for teen runaways.

Without Trace: On the Trail of New Zealand Missing Persons

My review of Scott Bainbridge’s Without Trace, on the Trail of New Zealand Missing Persons. Reed Books, 2005. Paperback, 189 pages. Thanks to Justin for sending me this book.

Not for sale in the United States, this book covers sixteen cases of mysterious disappearances from New Zealand dating back as far as the 1950s. The chapters are about ten to twenty pages each in length and are usually, but not always, illustrated with black and white photos. I was impressed by the author’s ability to pack so much information into these relatively short essays. He interviewed many of the parties involved and some of the information in this book can be found nowhere else.

If this selection of cases is anything to judge by, New Zealand disappearances can be quite as weird as those in the United States. In the case of Cynthia Grierson-Jackson for instance, the police found a lone, naked woman’s leg that was probably hers. But one leg looks much like any other, they never found the rest of the body, and the leg was never conclusively identified.

Any missing persons/true crime buff would find this book intriguing. I only wish the author had included law enforcement contact numbers to submit tips.

The stories that go nowhere

I was looking through Google’s news archive today for old missing children articles and found mention of some very intriguing cases. No idea whether they’re still active or not. This one in particular is fascinating and frustrating:

Jacqueline L. Bouknight, a twenty-something woman said to be mildly retarded, had her six-month-old son taken from her by Baltimore’s Department of Social Services. The child, Maurice Miles, was returned to her after she took parenting classes, but then he disappeared and she refused to say where he was. Jacqueline said she was abused in foster care as a kid and wanted to protect Maurice from that. They threw her in jail in 1988 because she would not produce her son or say where he was. She spent seven years in jail under contempt of court, and her supporters called her a hero of civil disobedience. As this New York Times article documents, Jacqueline was released from jail without charge in 1995, still refusing to disclose Maurice’s whereabouts. The judge said he was afraid Maurice was dead.

And then…nothing. I can’t find anything else about Jacqueline or Maurice or whether he was ever found, but it doesn’t look like he was. The author Laura Lippman wrote a novel based on the case and Lippman is quoted in this article saying, “She’s still dropping these tantalizing hints, that it’s not what you think and only if she could tell what happened. In real life, she implies that her son is still alive and that no one knows where he is.” She added, “I wanted to write about a forgotten story.” It certainly seems to be forgotten. I don’t know if anyone is even still looking for Maurice. His biological father is dead, and he may have no other family. If he is alive and Jacqueline really knows where he is, she has no reason not to tell now; he’s an adult and in no danger of being put in the foster care system.

Two family abduction cases: kids found, but are they ever going to come home?

Hannah Marie Aguilera-Hurtado, age one, and Teresa Charlene Aguilera-Hurtado, age six, were abducted by their non-custodial father from Rhode Island in June 2008. They were recently listed as located…but they still haven’t been sent home to their mother. This article from the Albuquerque Journal tells the story: the two girls are living in a government orphanage in Cancun, Mexico and the authorities are trying to figure out to do with them.

Teresa and Hannah are US-born, US citizens, and so is their mom, Jennifer. Their father, Miguel, was in the US illegally when he married Jennifer and he initially lied to her about his name. (He called himself Mario Canifari and when he fessed up to her, he said he used the false name to avoid racism against Hispanic people.)

Although the NCMEC announced the girls’ recovery just a few weeks ago, this article says they were found in APRIL and they are still stuck in the orphanage as their case makes its way through the Mexican court system. Their Mom went to Cancun to fight the case and she’s determined she’s not going to leave until she gets her daughters back — she says she can’t afford it, anyway — but she’s not even allowed to visit them.

It is a well known fact that institutionalization is bad for children, especially very young ones, and adversely affects their development. And these girls have a mother who is willing to care for them and has custody of them in their home country. What’s the holdup here, people? Argh!

Meanwhile, Chandler, Hayden and Rebekah Clark (ages 23, 20 and 17) have been located safe in England. (They are still on Charley but won’t be for much longer.) Their mother, Eileen, took the kids and walked out of her marriage in New Mexico in 1995. They found her in another city, served her the divorce papers and told her to appear at a custody hearing. Instead she ran with the children, leaving their father wondering and worrying for the next fifteen years.

Well, according to this incredibly biased article, the kids seem to be all right. The oldest one is in law school, the middle one has been accepted to college and the youngest is in sixth form (which I think is like the British equivalent of being a senior in high school). They’re really unhappy about the situation and the disruption in their lives — and I can’t say I blame them there — and Eileen is royally pissed about her recent arrest and the United States’s extradition request, going on about how it is going to ruin her kids’ lives etc.

Well, she should have thought of that before she ran off with them. She didn’t just leave, the way the Telegraph article makes it sound; she deliberately hid them. The info in the article about the statute of limitations is also incorrect. Statute of limitations usually applies only as long as the offender is still within the state where the offense took place. This is to prevent criminals from fleeing to avoid prosecution — which was precisely what happened on in this case.

The Clark children all say they don’t want to be reunited with their dad, who would presumably be willing to provide a home for them. I wonder what they’ve been told about him. Only Chandler would be old enough to remember much.

It’s a very sad situation all around.