A frightened young woman’s descriptions of being held captive and sold for sex at drug houses and motels over the past year has led to several arrests in what’s believed to be Spokane County’s first human trafficking case.
Lawrence Dean Johnson, 43; Johnson’s wife, Dina K. Tellez, 43; Christopher G. Foster, 33; and Shanell L. Haddon, 28, who is Foster’s girlfriend, are in the Spokane County Jail as prosecutors consider formal charges against them.
Dave Skogen, a detective with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday that more victims could be identified.
“There’s some information that there’s four or five other people, but we don’t know where they are and we don’t know who they are,” Skogen said.
He also said more arrests are possible.
The alleged ringleader of the group, identified by the woman as a man possibly in his 60s with the nickname “Spade,” has not yet been identified, Skogen said.
“Nobody’s been able to tell us or willing to – whichever that is,” Skogen said.
The 21-year-old alleged victim made the allegations when she and a friend showed up at the Public Safety Building on Tuesday wanting to talk with police.
Foster denied the claims in an interview with The Spokesman-Review from jail Thursday evening.
“They should get a psychiatric evaluation done on this chick,” Foster said. “Then the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office will realize what a big mistake they’ve made.”
Foster said he and the other suspects all live at a home at 13520 E. Nora Ave. in Spokane Valley, but that the woman, whom he described as a prostitute, has only been there a couple times. He said he and Haddon criticized her when her child was seized recently by Child Protective Services, and the allegations may be in retaliation for that.
Skogen said the woman also told him her son is in CPS custody but he had not yet confirmed that.
Skogen corroborated some of the woman’s claims through property records and past police reports, including an arrest of a sex offender in March on accusations that he assaulted the woman.
The suspect in that case, level 3 sex offender Trevor L. Franklin, pleaded guilty to third-degree assault earlier this month and was sentenced to a year in prison.
Franklin, 21, was previously convicted of third-degree assault for threatening to kill a developmentally delayed woman if she did not let him sexually assault her. According to a sex offender notification from Spokane police in 2009, Franklin also had sexual contact with five others between 9 and 15 years old but was not charged.
Police arrested Franklin after responding to a motel at 12803 E. Sprague Ave. on March 31 to find the alleged sex-trafficking victim hysterical and shaking while with her 2-year-old son.
The woman told police she’d been dating Franklin for several months but that he had been “holding her captive,” forcing her to smoke methamphetamine and raping her, according to court documents.
The woman had bruises all over her body and said Franklin frequently beat her and burned her. She described being forced to work as a prostitute and said Franklin would take her child “to a cousin’s house” when she was working.
Police said they contacted Franklin, and he denied ever burning the woman and said the case against him was “flimsy,” according to court documents. He’s now in state prison.
On Tuesday, the woman described to Skogen months of being forced to work as a sex slave.
Skogen said based on his training in human trafficking, he can understand why the woman did not escape the situation when she reported Franklin to police in March.
“I can’t tell you what changed except that she escaped, she got away from the folks that were perpetrating it, and she had the ability to say something,” Skogen said.
Skogen said there’s a “vast difference” between trafficking victims and other kidnapping victims. “They’re not locked up. They’re not chained down. They’re not held behind a chain door with armed guards. But what they are is intimidated and coerced and frightened, and really, truly, they’re in fear for their safety and their families,” he said.
The woman told Skogen that Haddon, Johnson, Tellez and Foster were responsible for taking her to motels to be sold for sex through prostitution websites. The woman said she often was raped at gunpoint and knew “that if she left she would ‘end up dead,’ ” according to court documents.
The woman said she saw four or five girls sitting on a bed in the basement of the home on Nora just four days before she escaped. Skogen said detectives have not located any other victims at the Nora Avenue home yet.
Detectives also spoke to the woman’s friend, who said the victim called her that morning and said she’d run away from a house on East First Avenue and South Haven Street.
The woman claimed to be an ex-girlfriend of Marcus Allen Schur, who was murdered in Whitman County in December. His body was found in a creek at the end of Bonnie Lake on March 25. The woman said Schur, 23, was murdered because he was trying to help her, but Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said Thursday that detectives don’t believe that’s true.
Brothers Frank Lazcano, 24, of Pine City, Wash., and Daniel Lazcano, 20, of Spokane, are accused of killing Schur.
Myers said the men believed Schur burglarized a home in Rosalia, Wash. Myers said the alleged sex-trafficking victim dated Schur several years ago, but he doesn’t believe the two cases are connected in any other way.
Johnson remains jailed on $20,000 bond after appearing in Superior Court on Wednesday. Tellez is jailed on $10,000 bond after her court appearance Thursday. Foster and Haddon were ordered jailed on $150,000 bond; prosecutors requested the larger bonds because of their criminal histories and the extent of their alleged involvement.