In April, eight people were arrested in Oklahoma City for allegedly trafficking a 15-year-old Texas girl at a Dallas Mavericks game, and the girl’s family now wonders why more wasn’t done to get her home sooner. According to her family’s attorney, Zeke Fortenberry of the Fortenberry Firm, PLLC, the girl went to the restroom at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on April 8 while attending a basketball game with her father and never returned. She was missing for ten days before being found by authorities on April 18 at an Extended Stay America motel in Oklahoma City, almost 200 miles away.
When the teenager failed to return to her seat, her father quickly alerted stadium security and Dallas police officers, according to Fortenberry. The Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative (TXCTI), a nonprofit group was able to track down nude photographs of the girl on a prostitution website and assisted the family in locating the girl.
The Dallas Police Department never looked into the issue because of Texas Family Code regulations that state that missing adolescents are considered runaways “unless there are circumstances which appear as involuntary, such as a kidnapping or abduction.” The family now wants to know why Dallas officers and the American Airlines Center didn’t do more to find the child sooner. Additionally, the family wants to know why Extended Stay America permitted a documented sex offender with a phony name and ID to rent rooms.
Fortenberry explained to Fox News, “The systems and organizations involved in this case continually failed the victim. She should never have had contact with the man at the Mavericks game. The Dallas Police should have worked quickly to investigate leads and locate the teenager before she was trafficked to Oklahoma.” He continued, “The Extended Stay America hotel in Oklahoma City put profits ahead of people by turning a blind eye to the sexual exploitation occurring right before their eyes. This victim’s life will forever be changed. We hope to hold accountable those responsible and create change within these organizations so that this never happens to any other child.”
According to Fox, Oklahoma City Police arrested Saniya Alexander, Melissa Wheeler, Chevaun Gibson, Kenneth Nelson, Sarah Hayes, Karen Gonzales, Thalia Gibson, and Steven Hill in connection with the trafficking case. The girl’s mother stated, “We are thankful for the work of the Oklahoma City Police Department and the recovery of our daughter. My heart breaks for the unimaginable things my daughter had to endure for the 11 days she was taken, and I am so glad she is safe as we work toward her recovery.”