A man was arrested by Greenville Police in North Carolina after a 16-year-old girl died from an apparent drug overdose.
The man was charged with human trafficking, and police say that he was holding the young girl against her will to be abused by him and other men.
The suspect, Anthony Cox, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with human trafficking, sexual servitude of a child, promoting prostitution, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and statutory-rape of a child.
Police were called just before 10:00 a.m. Tuesday to the Baymont Inn on South Memorial Drive for an apparent overdose, according to WITN.
The girl had just turned 16 this month, and was in an ongoing relationship with the 21-year-old man.
The older man reportedly forced her to become a sexworker because they “needed the money to live off of.”
Liz Liles, Founder & CEO of Daughters of Worth, says that many young girls are forced into this life by someone they know and trust.
“We have had a misrepresentation of what human trafficking looks like. I think a lot of people have this vision of trafficking being that white van that shows up at target or Walmart or is parked on the side of the street and you don’t recognize that car and people are afraid of being abducted. Where some of those things may happen, that’s not the case. These are people that somebody trusted,” Liles said.
Melinda Sampson, Community Outreach Coordinator at NC Stop Human Trafficking, explained that there is often a grooming process where the predator gains the trust of the child.
“It actually begins with a grooming process or the process of developing a relationship with somebody. It’s when that victim is compelled to do something like this through fraud which that would be the case. Forced and coercion and that’s when it’s human trafficking,” Sampson said.
An autopsy to determine how the victim died is scheduled for this week, and Cox is currently being held on a $3 million bond.
Over the past five years, the US Marshal Service (USMS) has recovered missing children in 75% of the cases it has received. And of those recovered, 72% were recovered within 7 days. Since 2005, the USMS has recovered more than 2,000 missing children.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 enhanced the U.S. Marshals’ authority to assist federal, state and local law enforcement with the recovery of missing, endangered or abducted children, regardless of whether a fugitive or sex offender was involved.
The Marshals established a Missing Child Unit to oversee and manage the implementation of its enhanced authority under the act.
Investigators urged victims and people who are aware of victims to speak out. Victims and witnesses can report information to the Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-888-373-7888.