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The 15-year-old Texas girl trafficked from a Dallas Mavericks game and rescued ten days later from an Oklahoma City hotel room was initially listed as a runaway before her nude photos surfaced online in advertisements for commercial sex acts, according to several law enforcement agencies.
The teen vanished from the American Airlines Center (AAC) on April 8 after going to use the restroom during the game attended with her father. The Dallas Police Department, which the victim’s parents are now blaming for never opening an investigation into the case, told Fox News Digital that an off-duty Dallas police officer working the game was notified of a missing person at the game.
The event and location were searched that evening, a spokesperson for DPD said, though noting that Texas Family Code (51.03 b. 3) “dictates that missing juveniles are investigated as runaways unless there are circumstances which appear as involuntary such as a kidnapping or abduction.”
Per code, police said those cases are to be filed where the juvenile resides. A report was generated by the Dallas Police Department, which assisted the North Richland Hills Police Department, which became the lead agency to investigate the girl’s disappearance because she lives in their jurisdiction.
TEXAS GIRL, 15, TRAFFICKED FROM MAVERICKS GAME IN DALLAS; 8 ARRESTED IN OKLAHOMA: POLICE
A spokesperson for the North Richland Hills Police Department revealed to Fox News Digital that the girl “was reported to our department as a runaway at 1:27 a.m. on April 9, 2022, via a phone call.”
“A parent told us that he had been working with local authorities at the American Airlines Center and was told to go home and report this to us,” the spokesperson for that agency said. “We took the report upon the first contact with the parent and had her entered into the national missing person database by 3:24 am – within two hours of her being reported to our agency.”
North Richland Hills police added that: “Our focus was and always will be to help victims of crime.”
“As soon as the family contacted us about the missing teen, our officer took a report on the case,” the spokesperson said via email. “Upon follow-up with the family, the detective connected them with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) for additional resources.”
A bulletin about the missing teen was created and went out to the department on April 11, DPD said.
About a week and a half would go by until the girl was found at an Extended Stay America hotel across state lines in Oklahoma City on April 18.
According to an incident report obtained by Fox News Digital, the Oklahoma City Police Department first received information on April 14 of a missing juvenile from Texas possibly being in the area.
“There were concerns that the missing juvenile was possibly being trafficked for commercial sex purposes,” the report says. “Online ads featuring recent photos of the missing juvenile were located for the Oklahoma City area.”
A search warrant was conducted on hotel rooms associated with suspect Kenneth Nelson. Evidence obtained from one of the hotel rooms led detectives to believe Nelson and at least one adult female were associated with the missing juvenile, the report says. Officers located two more suspects, Sarah Hayes and Karen Gonzales, and interviews were conducted with all three individuals.
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Hayes and Gonzales were later arrested on felony charges including human trafficking and use of a computer to violate Oklahoma Statutes. In all, a total of eight individuals have been arrested and charged in connection to the incident, and additional charges include rape, offering to engage in prostitution, distribution of child pornography and a robbery warrant.
A missing person notice shared by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook in April 2021 indicates a 14-year-old girl by the same name as the recent trafficking victim was missing along with another teen from Fort Worth, Texas, for about three days before both juveniles were found safe. DPD and North Richland Hills police both told Fox News Digital they did not have information on that case from about a year ago.
Fox News’ Audrey Conklin and Stephanie Pagones contributed to this report.