Primetime Focuses on Toledo Teens’ Abduction, Forced Prostitution
By Bridget Tharp, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
Jul. 16–Three years after their short walk for a frozen snack became every parent’s nightmare, the two Toledo teens forced to spend 10 days having sex with strangers for money will appear tonight on ABC’s midweek news magazine, Primetime Live.
The girls, whose identities are veiled in the special by dark wigs and the aliases “Kimberly” and “Carol,” recounted their ordeal to reporter Cynthia McFadden in a program to air at 10 p.m. on WTVG-TV, Channel 13.
Though the program criticizes the Toledo Police Department for taking 90 minutes to respond to a call at the Downing Avenue home where one of the kidnapped teens was found, the program presents Toledo more as a backdrop for the issue of teen prostitution.
The special includes University of Toledo social researcher Celia Williamson and Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre to paint a picture of the problem of child prostitution in what McFadden calls “a typical middle American city.”
But the special fails to put Kimberly and Carol’s case in full perspective as part of the interstate sex ring uncovered by federal law enforcement in 2005.
The television program doesn’t mention that those responsible for kidnapping and exploiting the Toledo teens were only three of 31 people charged after an FBI investigation in 2005 showed teens were being shuttled across Ohio lines for sex in truck stops, motels, and highway welcome centers. It also doesn’t note that Kimberly and Carol were only two of nine Toledo girls forced into sexual slavery.
The Blade reported in a three-part series in January, 2006, on the sexual trafficking of children and the results of the FBI’s 2005 “Innocence Lost” investigation. The same girls in the Primetime special have been identified in The Blade as “Stacy” and “Cara” during coverage of their captors’ trials.
Just last month, about 21 children — at least one from Toledo — were recovered in a similar national prostitution sweep.
The Primetime story starts on a rainy day before dinner in May, 2005, when Kimberly, then 15, and her cousin, Carol, then 14, were walking to a fast-food restaurant.
They accepted a ride from a man Kimberly first thought looked familiar, and only realized her mistake after she was in the vehicle. The man was convicted pimp Deric Willoughby, 41 of Toledo, who was sentenced in March to serve eight years in prison on charges of conspiracy and interstate transportation of minors for prostitution.
The girls became nervous as the car rolled past the restaurant, but never imagined what they’d be forced to do. When they tried to escape Willoughby’s Downing Avenue home, he tossed Kimberly through a glass table and pulled Carol up the stairs by her hair. Terrified when their captors threatened to hurt their parents if they escaped, the girls didn’t try to run until they were rescued by police.
Two women — Jennifer Huskey, 25, and Brandy Shope, 20, sentenced last year to 6 1/2 years in prison — supervised as the girls they dubbed “Heavenly” and “Ambrosia” performed sex acts and collected the cash.
Willoughby was “Daddy” and paying customers never asked how old the girls were.
“I didn’t want to do any of this. I wanted to knock ‘em out and run,” Kimberly tells McFadden in the special.
Kimberly said on television she gave up hope on the fifth of the 10 days she was a prisoner.
The police first dismissed the girls as runaways, but Kimberly’s mom told Ms. McFadden she knew her daughter wouldn’t leave without “Moo-zers,” the stuffed cow Kimberly couldn’t sleep without.
Her rescue came when she was arrested for soliciting at a truck stop in Dexter, Mich. She was reunited with her family but had to leave her cousin behind.
Kimberly remembered the name of Willoughby’s street, and recognized his house. When police didn’t show after two of her mother’s frantic 911 calls — which are included in the television special — Carol’s dad charged the house and struggled with Willoughby. It took police about 90 minutes to arrive, the television special estimates.
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Kimberly and Carol are among an estimated 2,000 and 100,000 children in the United States victimized as prostitutes, Ms. McFadden reports.
Though that may seem a large range, child prostitution is difficult for researchers to quantify because the problem is so pervasive, University of Toledo researcher Ms. Williamson told the Blade after her interview for the television special.
One university study estimated up to 800,000 child prostitutes in the United States.
“Whenever an adult has sex with an underage person, that’s child abuse,” Ms. Williamson said. “We can’t get an accurate count, for one thing, because the kids are being channeled into the wrong system: the criminal system. That doesn’t make sense. They shouldn’t be charged with a crime anyway.”
Ms. Williamson created Second Chance, an organization in Toledo to help sex workers with advocacy support and job placement services to leave what she calls “the life.” In August, the organization plans to open a safe house in Toledo for young victims of sexual trafficking.
The average age of an underage sex worker is 14 years old, but Scott Wilson of the FBI’s Cleveland office said children as young as 9 have been rescued.
“I think that we are just at the tip of the iceberg right now in trying to dismantle these criminal organizations that take these children and place them into prostitution,” Mr. Wilson said.
Contact Bridget Tharp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6061.
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