In every state in America, there are families still waiting for their children to come home. Analysis of state by state data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates at any given time in the U.S., there are an average of 90,000 open missing persons cases, with at least 15 states having between 5 and in excess of 10 open cases per 100,000 people. The void left by these missing persons create a ripple effect on the entire country. In a growing trend, more and more states are establishing their own Missing Persons Day to shed additional light as to the details surrounding all open missing persons cases and provide support for the families still enduring the loss of their missing loved one.

Last year, an overwhelming 600 open missing persons cases in the state of Virginia prompted the state General Assembly to establish the first Missing Persons Day in the Commonwealth. This year, Virginia recognized Missing Persons Day with an event on Saturday, April 28th. Dozens of affected family members shared their experiences surrounding their missing loved ones. Events like these give families the opportunity to network and find support in one another. Women like Trina Murphy, whose niece Alexis Murphy went missing five years ago, appreciates the empathy of those present at the event, “It really means everything—I mean, to be in the presence of people who have gone through what you continue to go through is very important for your healing process.”

Toni Jacobs’s daughter, Keeshae Jacobs, 21, disappeared over a year ago in September of 2016. “Her phone kept going to voicemail, and it’s been going to voicemail ever since.” Despite the loss of her child, Jacobs has turned her pain into advocacy and spreading awareness to other parents. Carol Adams of the Richmond Police Department was next to Jacobs at Saturday’s event. She advised the crowd, “We want to teach parents to be vigilant about where their children are, who they’re interacting with. Don’t meet up with strangers without knowing where you’re going because it could be a ploy to kidnap you.”

A statewide Missing Persons Day has helped shine light on non-profit organizations like Help Save the Next Girl. It was founded by Gil Harrington, in honor of her daughter, Morgan, who was abducted and found murdered in 2009. The non-profit’s website offers their specific call to action, “We seek to sensitize young women and girls to predatory danger. Our foundation fosters mutual respect and camaraderie with young men, and we are committed to be an active, imaginative presence on campuses and in clubs and violence prevention forums across the country.” Foundations like Help Save the Next Girl spread awareness about the predation that often leads to both children and adults being reported missing.

Another non-profit organization like Help Save the Next Girl is the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. It was founded in 2008 by a veteran law enforcement officer and a public relations specialist, the Black and Missing Foundation’s mission statement is to, “to bring awareness to missing persons of color; provide vital resources and tools to missing person’s families and friends and to educate the minority community on personal safety.” The foundation organizes informational campaigns and public forums using a variety of media in order to reach an underserved community. The families of missing persons of color face a very specific problem in getting the name and face of their loved one out there in media for the country to see because of a phenomenon called “missing white woman syndrome.” According to NPR, “a phrase coined by Gwen Ifill, the late PBS anchor. It refers to the mainstream media’s seeming fascination with covering missing or endangered white women — like Laci Peterson or Natalee Holloway — and its seeming disinterest in cases involving missing people of color.” As a result, the names and faces of missing persons of color often tragically do not make national news, unlike the cases of Laci Peterson or Natalee Holloway. Organizations like the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. work tirelessly to combat this issue and spread awareness about missing persons of color across the country.

Missing Persons Day is not only an opportunity with victims’ families to network with one another, but also for families to network with law enforcement to update the open files on their missing loved ones, including updating their photograph. David Morris, an officer with the Roanoke Police Department told CBS 10, “This gives us an opportunity to talk to the individuals and their family members, update them on any case files or any information we’ve come across. Just try to provide them with any kind of closure that we can and just reaffirm that we are still investigating these cases and these cases have not gone silent.” David Morris went on to say his best advice for anyone who has a missing person in their family is to keep an open line of communication with investigators.

The epidemic of missing persons in the United States has not only led to states invoking their own Missing Persons Days, but also to the creation of the National Center for Missing Adults. The center was founded as a response to the disappearance of Kristen Modafferi of Charlotte, North Carolina. Because she was not a minor at the time of her disappearance, resources in finding her were limited. Representative Sue Myrick introduced the bill in 1999, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law in 2000. During its short tenure, the law “provided assistance to law enforcement and families in missing persons cases of those over the age of 17” and authorized $1M per year to support organizations including the National Center for Missing Adults.” Funding for Kristen’s Act ran out in 2005 but continues with volunteer support.

According to Independent Missing Persons Investigator, Thomas Lauth of, “Daily, families have to deal with the crisis of a loved one and while some families receive law enforcement and media attention others fall by the wayside and into the unknown.  Specifically, missing adults who often times are considered by law enforcement to be missing on their own accord or adults suffering from mental illness and their path inadvertently places them into homelessness. A day of recognition for any missing adult or child should always be recognized.”

For more information on Gil Harrington’s non-profit organization, Help Save the Next Girl, please visit their website at

For more information on the Black and Missing Foundation, please visit their website at

For more information on establishing a Missing Persons Day in your state, please visit the official website of your state’s legislature.

Carie McMichael is the Communication and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International, a private investigation firm based in Indianapolis, Indiana–delivering proactive and diligent solutions for over 30 years. For more information, please visit our website.

Police Unable to Connect Deaths of 3 Lumberton Women

Police Unable to Connect Deaths of 3 Lumberton Women

2560px-Downtown_Lumberton_North_CarolinaNear the southern tip of North Carolina, where I-74 and I-95 meet, there’s a town called Lumberton. In 1995, the town became the two-time winner of the National Civic Leagues All-America City Award, which aims to recognize communities “whose citizens work together to identify and tackle community-wide challenges and achieve uncommon results.” Unfortunately, in a matter of decades, Lumberton has fallen from recipient of the All-America City Award to the number one spot on the FBI’s list of the top ten most dangerous cities in North Carolina.

According to a 2016 FBI report, there were 393 violent crimes in Lumberton and analysts estimate an individual resident has a 1 in 55 chance of being raped, assaulted, or killed. These overwhelming statistics could explain why the details emerging from Lumberton in recent months read more like a titillating summer mystery novel than a modern-day Mayberry—the citizens stewing in fear and suspicion as law enforcement continue to investigate the three murders and smattering of disappearances plaguing the small North Carolina town in the last year.

48501AF400000578-5288341-image-m-22_1516363527046On April 18th, 2017, the remains of two women were found in central Lumberton less than 100 yards from one another. The remains of Christina Bennett, 32, were found in an abandoned house after a neighbor called authorities about a rancid odor coming from the property. Police also discovered the remains of Rhonda Jones, 36, stuffed in a trash can not even a football field distance away. The remains of both women were in an advanced stage of decomposition, not only preventing authorities from establishing a time of death, but also preventing them from establishing a cause of death for both women. Police Captain Terry Parker confirmed the women were both identified through medical records.

web1_5078-MMS-1515169868510-attachment1-received_101551567753906901201815142013421-1The community was staggered by the tragedy. Rhonda Jones’s family had known something was wrong when she didn’t show up for Easter. Jones’ sister told the Robesonian“I want whoever did this to be punished. I know somebody knows something. Because Rhonda knows everybody in thE area. Somebody knows what happened to Rhonda,” Price said. “She had five kids… She had a family that loved her… She had a granddaughter that she loved with all of her heart. Somebody needs to be punished for what they did to her. She didn’t deserve this. No one deserved that.”

In early June, the remains of Megan Oxendine were found in another abandoned house on 9th Street in central Lumberton. The discovery of her body came as a chilling twist to the citizens of Lumberton, as many recalled her interview with news media the day after the discovery of the remains of her friend, Rhonda Jones. In April 2017, Oxendine joined many across the community who had spoken out about the loss of Jones. She told CBS North Carolina, “I ain’t never seen her act out or nothing. She’s just quiet. She didn’t really mess with too many people.”  Just as, in the cases of Christina Bennett and Rhonda Jones, Oxendine’s state of decomposition prevented authorities from establishing both time of death and cause of death.  This makes her the third woman web1_Megan-Oxendine201839162925537-248x245found in a four-block radius in central Lumberton in two months. Although law enforcement has yet to link the deaths of the three women, Private investigator Thomas Lauth of Lauth Investigations International speculates that the discovery of their remains could be the patterned behavior of a single perpetrator, “Commonly in cases where the victim(s) are first missing then found deceased in a very small geographic area, the perpetrator of such a heinous crime will kill again, and resides within a 10-20 mile radius. Perhaps even had prior interaction with the victim or their family. Further, if the community has a high rate of crime from meth or heroin, it could bring outside traffickers and other transients into the community which increases the propensity for murder.” Police have reported the neighborhood has been a hive of criminal activity for years but are unable to connect any of the deaths to the criminal element.  

It was in June of 2017 the Lumberton Police Department officially requested the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in what is officially called “the death investigations” of the three women. As recently as last month, March 2018, investigators conducted a canvas of the area where the three women were found. Over the course of three days, they knocked on 800 doors, conducted 500 interviews, and continued to encourage the public to come forward with any information.

875bbd99-7cbd-491d-be43-c3e7909ed705-large16x9_WPDE_abandonedhomebodyfoundlumberton_6.7.17Since the beginning of the FBI’s involvement in the death investigations, two more women have gone missing from the Lumberton area. The first woman is Cynthia Jacobs, 41, who went missing sometime in July 2017. Her disappearance strikes those who knew her as “suspicious” because, according to her sister-in-law, Cynthia was the last person to see Megan Oxendine—the third woman found—alive and well. The second woman was 20-year-old Abby Lynn Patterson. On September 5th, 2017, after telling her mother she was leaving the house to run errands, it was reported Abby Lynn was last seen getting into a car with a male acquaintance on East 9th Street, 1000 yards from where Christina Bennett and Rhonda Jones had been found. Captain Terry Parker of the Lumberton Police Department told CBS 17, “While there is always a possibility, we are 99 percent sure the case is not related to the females this spring and early summer.”

Five women have either disappeared or been discovered dead in the same neighborhood over the course of six months. A little over a year later, police and federal investigators have yet to establish a cause of death in the cases of Christina Bennett, Rhonda Jones, and Megan Oxendine. They have yet to name any suspects in their deaths. They are currently offering $30,000 for anyone who can lead investigators to the truth of what happened to the three women. Cynthia Jacobs and Abby Lynn Patterson have not had contact with their families since they were last reported seen in Lumberton. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the missing women should call the Lumberton Police Department at (910)-671-3845.


Reality of Sex Trafficking

Reality of Sex Trafficking

Corinna Slusser, 19, was last seen at the Haven Motel in Queens, New York the morning of September 20, 2017. New York Police Department (NYPD) fears she was kidnapped by a sex trafficking ring and friends and family fear the worst.

According to relatives, in early 2017, Slusser had dropped out of her Bloomberg, Pennsylvania high school and moved to New York City with a 32-year old man she had hoped was giving her a “fresh start.”

According to Marnie O’Neill’s article “Missing teen feared kidnapped by sex-trafficking ring left cryptic Instagram clue,” Slusser’s aunt Julie Anne Becker-Calfa told Dateline, “She wanted out of this small town and this guy gave her that out.”

Police instead suspect the man, turned “pimp”, lured her into prostitution.

Police fear Corinna Slusser has been kidnapped into a sex trafficking ring

Police fear Corinna Slusser has been kidnapped into a sex trafficking ring

The pimp, whose name has been withheld by police, was arrested and held on a $1000 bond.
Court documents revealed on August 25, 2017, police had responded to a 911 call at 1:15 am from the Harlem Vista Hotel and found Slusser “crying and shaking”. She told officers her pimp had stolen $300 from her while she was in the shower. He began strangling her when she confronted him, slamming her against the wall, making it hard for her to breathe.

The court issued a temporary “Order of Protection” to Slusser and a copy was mailed to the address she listed on file at her mother’s home back in Pennsylvania.

Slusser’s mother, Sabina Tuorto, opened the mail to find a copy of the order several days later. Fearfully, she called her daughter to ask what was going on; however, Slusser told her mother not to worry.

When Slusser did not show up at her grandfather’s funeral in Florida, her family reported her missing on September 12th.

On September 20th, an anonymous individual called the NYPD and told them Slusser had been seen leaving a hotel in Queens. Police have confirmed; however, she has not been seen since, elevating concerns of family and police.

Mysterious Instagram Post

On September 10th, Slusser posted a puzzling message and mysterious photograph on Instagram featuring a young woman wearing a black baseball cap and smoking a joint in the middle of heavy traffic on a city street. It was her last post since she was reported missing.

slusser Instagram

An avid social media user, Corinna Slusser’s last Instagram post on September 10, 2017

NYPD’s Vice Human Trafficking Team fear Slusser has been kidnapped by a sex-trafficking ring and passed to different pimps since her disappearance. Investigators suspect sex-traffickers kidnapped Slusser after she reported her pimp to police, a rule not to be broken in the underground world of sex-trafficking.She tagged the picture, “The Bronx”, but friends and family both have said the picture looks like it was taken somewhere in South America rather than New York.

Prior to her disappearance, a cheerleader and popular student in high school with future dreams of becoming a makeup artist, Slusser suddenly moved out of her mother’s home at age 17 and dropped out of school. While staying at a friend’s home near her mother, Slosser began suffering from depression and attempted suicide. While recovering in the hospital, she met the man who lured her to New York in March.

From High School to Possible Call Girl

According to an interview with Oxygen, “Corinna Slusser’s Aunt Believes She Was a ‘Call Girl’ Who Was Killed or Abducted After Attempting to Go Home”, Becky’s aunt told them she fears her niece was abducted or murdered after trying to return home.

While in New York, Slusser sent home photographs of her new apartment in the Bronx telling family she was working “customer service” on weekends.

slusser 3
According to Slusser’s aunt Becker-Calfa, Slusser’s social media posts were becoming more provocative and inappropriate.

She told Oxygen, “People have come forward saying she was boasting that she was making a lot of money doing things called dinner dates but saying there was no sex involved – that was when she first moved out there – and that meant they were just paying to take her to dinner. [Police] believe that escalated into actually being a call girl. She was still being treated well and apparently was able to get her own apartment. When she wanted to go home the next day, that was when they believe she was abducted.”

On October 10th, Slusser’s mother posted a plea on Facebook, “My daughter was a great student, a cheerleader. She had many friends and lived her life as a normal teenager. I need her home and I can’t bear any more days like this, I fear the worst, but I pray for the best and her return home.”

NY Daily News, “Missing teen sex trafficking victim has likely been passed between pimps and sent out of New York,” reports police suspect Slusser is no longer in New York city. They feared she had been moved from her home-base in Harlem or killed after filing assault charges.

A source told Daily News, “There is no indication she is subject to foul play,” but added nothing is certain. Slusser’s name has come up in several vice investigations giving some hope she is still out there.

As an avid social media user, there have been no posts from Slusser since September 2017.

The Toll of Human and Sex Trafficking

Human trafficking is defined as the exchange of money for services that have been obtained by force, fraud or coercion. There is little to no difference in the definition of sex trafficking.

Thomas Lauth, CEO of Lauth Investigations International, has worked missing persons, human and sex-trafficking cases for over twenty years. “Human trafficking is a hidden crime because victims are often afraid to come forward,” said Lauth. “They fear the wrath of the traffickers and may also fear law enforcement.”

A sex-trafficking victim profiled in a BBC report, “Shandra Woworuntu: My life as a sex trafficking victim,” had arrived in the U.S. hoping to start a new career in the hotel industry. Instead, she was trafficked into prostitution, sexual slavery, forced drug-ingestion and extreme violence.

Shandra Woworuntu, a human sex trafficking survivor now runs Mentari, helping other survivors.

Shandra Woworuntu, a human sex trafficking survivor now runs Mentari, helping other survivors.

“Customer service is the key to this job, I was told,” said Woworuntu. A graduate of finance, she passed the tests for employment and accepted the job working in the U.S. for $5,000 per month.

“I arrived at JFK airport with four other women and a man and we were divided into two groups. Johnny took all my documents, including my passport, and led me to his car with two other women,” said Woworuntu.

The driver proceeded to take her to another driver, they exchanged money and demanded they switch cars. This happened three more times. They were taken to a house where they were exchanged, yet again, to a driver with a gun.

“After just a few hours in the U.S. I was forced to have sex,” Woworuntu said. “I did what I was told.”

The traffickers who participated in Woworuntu’s kidnapping were American, Indonesian, Taiwanese, and Malaysian Chinese. One man even had a police badge though she does not know to this day if he was really an official.

She was then taken up and down I-95, to various brothels, apartment buildings, hotels and casinos on the East coast. Woworuntu said, “I was rarely in the same place, and I never knew where I was going.”

The traffickers made her take drugs like meth, cocaine and weed at gunpoint, along with alcohol. Some customers were violent, white guys, black guys, Hispanics guys, old men and even university students.

The traffickers had told Woworuntu she had to pay back $30,000 before freedom would be granted. She would have to service, at least, 300 men to afford this amount. She felt hopeless.

With all the strength she could muster, Woworuntu found an opportunity to escape. She went to police as well as the Indonesian consulate but received no help. She found herself sleeping on the Staten Island Ferry, the NYC Subway and Times Square when a man listened to her story and called the FBI.

Eventually, “Johnny” and others were arrested due to Woworuntu’s testimony. Several other women were freed because of Woworuntu’s courage.

The rest of the story is now history and Woworuntu is a success story. “The FBI connected me with Safe Horizon, an organization in New York that helps victims of crime and abuse, including survivors of human trafficking,” said Woworuntu.

The group helped her get housing and secure a job. For her cooperation with the FBI, she was granted permanent residency.

Now, 17 years later, Woworuntu runs Mentari, a Human Trafficking Survivor and Empowerment program.

The organization offers:

Art Projects

Career Coaching

Children’s Educational Books

Culinary Art Training


Survivor Leadership

Peer to Peer Support

Policy Advocacy

Support Groups

Training and Lectures

Job Assistance

Transitional Housing (planning)

“When we find victims of sex-trafficking, ensuring they have the proper resources gives them a better chance at overcoming the trauma of being a victim,” says Lauth. “Programs like Mentari are giving victims a fighting chance.”

Disappearance of Relisha Rudd Is She Still Alive?

Disappearance of Relisha Rudd Is She Still Alive?

Disappearance of Relisha Rudd

Is She Still Alive?

Relisha Rudd, age 8, missing since March 1, 2014 from a Washington D.C. homeless shelter.

Relisha Rudd, age 8, has been missing since February 26, 2014, from Washington, D.C. The strange circumstances regarding her disappearance prompted a nationwide search during 2014 only creating more mystery.

Rudd was last seen at D.C. General Family Shelter, a homeless shelter in southeast Washington.

The official search for Rudd began on March 19, 2014. Six days before, a counselor from Payne Elementary School had alerted D.C. Child and Family Services (DCFS) that Rudd had been absent several days from school and they were concerned about educational neglect. Officials told the counselor Rudd was sick and had been excused and released to a “Dr. Tatum.”

The story did not sit well with the counselor, so the individual tried to arrange a meeting with Dr. Tatum at the shelter. The doctor did not show. The counselor then found out Dr. Tatum was not really a doctor; however, Kahlil Malik Tatum, 51, employed as a janitor at D.C. General Family Shelter who had clocked out early the same day.

Authorities were called and the search for Rudd began March 19, 2014, weeks after Rudd had last been seen.

Washington Metro Police searching Kenilworth Park in D.C. on March 31, 2014. Courtesy NY Daily News

Rudd’s stepfather, Antonio Wheeler, told the “Wilkos Show” relatives believed she was going to a pool party with Tatum’s granddaughter.The Family’s Story

Shamika Young, Rudd’s mother, told the host of Wilkos she was under the impression her daughter was at her sister’s house with her mother Melissa Young, which is why it took so long to report her missing. She went on to say she had no phone and no way to communicate with her mother.

According to a New York Daily article, “There’s still no answers in Relisha Rudd’s disappearance – but her relatives have theories about what happened,” Rudd’s family believes there is much more to the story.

On the show, Wilkos asks Wheeler what he believes about Young’s story and he responded, “I believe she has something to do with it and also her mother too.”

Antonio Wheeler

However, the rumors have also engulfed Wheeler. A far cry from the life as a homeless family, Wheeler posted social media pictures displaying wads of cash in his mouth, along with brand new sneakers and a new cell phone. All around the time Rudd went missing.

For nearly two years, the second-grader had been living in the homeless shelter at former D.C. General hospital. A barely livable place infested with bed bugs and no playground for children.

Friends and family of Rudd also claim Wheeler and Young often let her spend time with Tatum.Relatives say Rudd slept with a teddy bear named “Baby” and would often fake asthma attacks to avoid going home. Others close to her at school say she would arrive in dirty clothes, unkempt hair and always hungry. They said she never wanted to go home.

Rudd called Tatum her “godfather” and he spent much time establishing her trust. Belinda Wheeler, paternal grandmother of Rudd, described Tatum as someone who brought a lot of gifts to Rudd. He was considered a friend of the family even though the family did not know Tatum prior to moving into the homeless shelter.

This had not been the first time Rudd was excused from school in the care of Dr. Tatum. On March 13, 2014, a school counselor wrote a referral to DCFS indicating Rudd had more than 30 days of excused absences by her mother Shamika Young.

A Washington Post article, “Timeline: Disappearance of Relisha Rudd,” indicates Young has had a history with numerous reports made to social workers. One report indicates Rudd and her siblings were found in a filthy home, littered with trash, cigarette butts and ashes. Another report to DCFS indicates evidence of “medical neglect” while another says the children were left alone and told to bathe without supervision. Incidents of lack of food and suspicion Rudd may have been physically abused.

A tough life for such a young child.

Known Facts

At approximately 10 pm on March 19th, Tatum checks into room 132 at the Red Roof Inn in Oxon Hill, MD and seen with four unknown individuals. Less than an hour later, three people leave the room.

At approximately 5:40 am on March 20th, one male individual returns to the room where police do not permit him to enter. He tells police he had helped Tatum do searches on the Internet for a handgun and downloaded the images on an Apple iPad.

At approximately 8 am, DC police contact Prince George’s County Police to request assistance and inform them Tatum may be driving a maroon 2007 Chevrolet Trail Blazer with a Washington Red Skins decal on the back window. The vehicle was seen parked outside of room 132 at the hotel.Police gain entry to the hotel room and find the body of Tatum’s wife Andrea Denise Tatum, lying face down on a bed, dead of a gunshot wound to the head.

Police find Andrea Tatum deceased inside Room 132 at the Red Roof Inn. Photo courtesy Washington Post/Lynh Bui.

Next, Police put out a “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) signal for a second vehicle, a white GMC truck. They later find said truck abandoned in Hyattsville, an urban city close to Washington D.C.

Tatum is charged with the murder of his wife and a warrant is issued for his arrest.

March 24th police release a new photo of Tatum and additional photos of Rudd.

Photo of Kahlil Tatum, AKA “Dr. Tatum”

The following day, March 25th, the FBI releases video of Tatum and Rudd at the Holiday Inn located in northeast Washington, D.C. They offer a $25,000 reward for Rudd’s safe return. Prince George’s County police offer an additional $25,000 leading to the arrest of Tatum.

Tatum caught on surveillance video leading Rudd into a hotel room in Maryland.

D.C. police chief, Cathy Lanier, said there are no confirmed sightings of Tatum and Rudd after March 1, 2014, and the FBI has not released the video of Rudd leaving the hotel where she was last seen with Tatum, citing an ongoing investigation. To generate leads for the case, the FBI released surveillance video showing Tatum leading Rudd into a room at a Holiday Inn Express in northeast D.C. on February 26, 2014.

On March 31st, a tip leads police to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in northeast Washington to search for the possible grave-site of Rudd. Instead, police found Tatum inside a shed dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. His eyeglasses and gun were found next to him. They estimate his body had been there for at least 36-hours.

Police spent the next six days searching the 700-acre park for any sign on Rudd; however, none was found.

Authorities say Tatum bought 42-gallon trash bags on March 2nd and was seen at Kenilworth Park the same day.

Representatives from the Black and Missing Foundation based in Maryland, helped police conduct the search of the park. Derrick Butler, a volunteer with the organization said volunteers were told to look for anything that could belong to a child, including clothing, a shoe, toys – anything looking unusual. Nothing was found.

It is unclear whether police have enough information to confirm Rudd is deceased; however, the missing child investigation continues to remain active. Many others theorize Wheeler and Young may have sold Rudd to Tatum. It is unclear who the other individuals were seen at the hotel in Maryland and what Tatum had planned.

Based upon a tip, police launched a new search for Rudd January 2018. They focused on Anacostia Park near a boat ramp just north of Pennsylvania Avenue in southeast Washington. Police said their search included sonar, divers, boats, and cadaver dogs searching for any evidence related to the case. The site is across the river from the shelter and approximately 4 miles south of where Tatum’s body was found at Kenilworth Park.

Railroad bridge that crosses the Anacostia River across from shelter searched by police recovery teams January 2018. Photo courtesy of Washington’s Top News.

Other searches have included a 15-acre construction site on New York Avenue in December 2015 and the U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast Washington in April 2016.

Thomas Lauth of Lauth Investigations International has worked on missing person and unsolved homicide cases for over twenty years. He has found several victims of sex trafficking alive over the years. “We all can agree on one thing, the world is a very dangerous place for children,” Lauth said. “We must do more to combat human trafficking in order to protect our kids.”Other searches have included a 15-acre construction site on New York Avenue in December 2015 and the U.S. National Arboretum in Northeast Washington in April 2016.

Human and Sex Trafficking in the United States

According to the Black and Missing Foundation, the statistics maintained by the FBI National Crime Information Center conclude nearly 250,000 minorities were reported in 2016.

Hubs of human trafficking are located in Georgia, Illinois, Texas, and Maryland. Despite the common belief most human trafficking victims are immigrants, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime, most children kidnapped are U.S. citizens sold into the sex trade.

As defined by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), child sex trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a minor with the purpose to commercial a sex act.

Offenders are commonly referred to as traffickers, or pimps, who target vulnerable children and gain control using attention, friendship, love, gifts, and a place to stay. Once a relationship is cultivated, traffickers then engage them in prostitution with the use of emotional, physical and psychological abuse including drugs, to maintain control over them.

Traffickers will alter the appearance of the child, isolate them and move them frequently to condition the children to remain loyal.

“No child is immune to becoming a victim of child sex trafficking,” says Lauth. “In addition, technological advances, the use of the Internet and cellular devices, has provided a convenient worldwide marketing platform for traffickers. They now use websites and social media to advertise and even sell victims, posing a challenge to law enforcement.”

Victims can range from 1-year old to 18-years old, most often started in the trade at approximately age 14.

Human trafficking is an annual $32 billion industry, surpassing the illegal sales of arms and expected to surpass the illegal sale of drugs in the next few years.

“Human trafficking is a hidden crime,” says Lauth. “The investigations are quite complex. It is critical for the public to report suspicious activity. We all need to work together to protect our children.”

Written By Kym Pasqualini




Two more girls, targeted by gang for human trafficking, beaten to death on Long Island

Two more girls, targeted by gang for human trafficking, beaten to death on Long Island

On Tuesday, September 16, 15-year-old Nisa Mickens and 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas were beaten to death in the streets of Brentwood, Long Island. Police believe Kayla was targeted for kidnapping by gang members planning to use her for sex trafficking.

Rob Mickens, Nisa’s father, had dropped Nisa off at Kayla’s house to hang out at 6:30 p.m. and that was the last time he’d see his daughter alive. When Nisa’s father returned to pick her up a few hours later, the girls were nowhere to be found.

The family began searching the area for their missing children, but it was a passing motorist who spotted Nisa’s body in the street outside of Loretta Park Elementary School at 8:30 p.m.. Police discovered Kayla’s body late Wednesday afternoon in a wooded area near her home. Kayla’s cell phone was found near Nisa’s body. Investigators suspect gang members attempted to kidnap Kayla, but Nisa tried to defend her friend and fight the kidnappers off.

“My daughter is very resilient. She worries about other people before worrying about herself, “ said Nisa’s mother, Elizabeth Alvorado.

Nisa was in the eleventh grade and played basketball for her high school. Her birthday would’ve been Wednesday. She’ll be remembered by her family as a girl who gave her life trying to protect someone else’s.

A heartbroken Alvarado told ABC 7, “She hugged me before she left and thats rare for her. And she hugged me twice and I’m not thinking anything of.”

While the case of Nisa and Kayla’s murder is particularly brutal, the circumstances surrounding them are not unique. According to the FBI, human trafficking is the third-largest criminal activity in the world. It’s an industry that generates over $32 billion a year and overwhelmingly victimizes girls.

A joint study of human trafficking by the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University found there are 8,830 to 11,773 underage and adult sex trafficking victims per year in San Diego County alone. 98% of these victims were female. The study also found that victims came from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. According to, an organization aimed at young people and social change, the average age range of a teen entering the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14-years-old.

Not every case is like Nisa and Kayla’s. Even when trafficking victims escape, the damage can have long lasting effects. In a story filed September 15th to CBS News in Dallas, a 14-year-old girl recounted her story of being forced into prostitution. As one of the youngest girls in North Texas to ever discuss her victimization publicly, she has chosen to keep her identity a secret.

The girl says she was lured into sex trafficking after using an app called Tagged. Her soon-to-be traffickers convinced her to come hang out by offering to smoke marijuana with her. What she thought was a way to fill a bored afternoon quickly turned into a horrifying trek around Texas.

One man and two women gave the girl drugs before trying to sell her for sex online. They took her from Dallas to San Antonio to Austin all the while posting escort ads on the internet. Stuck without a car, the perpetrators told the girl she would have to prostitute herself to pay for a way back home.

“I couldn’t go nowhere. They had a car. I didn’t know where I was at,” she told CBS Fort-Worth.

“We know that statistics show about 400 underage girls in Dallas are sold each night,” Alicia Bush, the founder of a Frisco based nonprofit that work with victims of human trafficking, said in the same article.

“We’re finding out these girls need long-term residential care,” says Bush. “This is a lifelong journey of healing and that’s really what’s important to us.”

Nefarious activity will always take place when there’s money to be made and people willing to disregard the lives of others. In 2014, a report by the Urban Institute estimated that the underground sex economy ranged from $39.9 million in Denver, Colorado, to $290 million in Atlanta, Georgia. Pimps and traffickers interviewed for the study reported taking home between $5,000 and $32,833 a week.

Human greed and indifference to the suffering of others certainly played a role in the disappearance, rape, and murder of 17-year-old Britanee Drexel in 2009. Drexel, a New York native, was staying in a Myrtle Beach hotel against the wishes of her parents when she crossed paths with 16-year-old Da’Shaun Taylor.

Taylor took Drexel from Myrtle Beach to McClellanville, South Carolina. Fox News reported that FBI agent Gerrick Munoz testified in court that the FBI believes Taylor, “showed her off, introduced her to some other friends that were there…they ended up tricking her out with some of their friends, offering her to them and getting a human trafficking situation.”

Drexel’s disappearance had remained a mystery for years until a “bombshell” confession from an inmate serving a 25 year involuntary manslaughter conviction named Taquan Brown. Brown told investigators, 

“He saw Da’Shaun Taylor, then 16 years old, and several other men “sexually abusing Brittanee Drexel.” Brown then said he walked to the backyard of the house to give money to Taylor’s father, Shaun Taylor. But as Brown and Shaun Taylor talked, Drexel tried to make a break for it. Her escape attempt was in vain, however, and one of the captors “pistol-whipped” Drexel and carried her back inside the house. Brown said he then heard two gunshots. The next time Brown said he saw Drexel, her body was being wrapped up and removed from the house. Drexel’s body has never been found, but Munoz said “several witnesses” have told investigators she was dumped in an unspecified McClellanville pond teeming with alligators.”

Human trafficking is a global industry that generates billions of dollars and impacts millions of people every year. Sometimes the victim is saved and returned to her mother, like in the case of the 14-year-old in Dallas. Other cases, like Brittanee Drexel’s, linger until a jailhouse confession years after the fact. And in other instances the tragedy of a case is immediately revealed, such as in the deaths of Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas.

David Schroeder, Blog Writer, Lauth Investigations International

Protecting Your Child from Sex Trafficking

Protecting Your Child from Sex Trafficking

It’s a rather startling number. At any given time, there are between 100,000 and 300,000 children in the U.S. alone at risk for child sex trafficking. While many people tend to think this horrific crime is something that only occurs in third world countries, they are sadly mistaken. This modern day form of slavery is alive and well in our own backyards. Girls are not the only targets either—so are boys.

“These are not children living in some faraway place, far from everyday life,” FBI Director James Comey stated. “These are our children. On our streets. Our truck stops. Our motels. These are America’s children. They are not for sale”

The Facts

To put the problem in perspective, consider these alarming numbers:

  • 75% of underage sex trafficking victims said they had been advertised or sold online.
  • A pimp can make $150,000-$200,000 per child each year and exploits an average of 4-6 girls.
  • 325,000 children are at risk for becoming victims of sexual exploitation in the United States.
  • The average age of entry into the sex trade in America is 12 – 14 years old.

U.S. Cities Notorious For Sex Trafficking

In 2003 as a part of its Innocence Lost National Initiative, the FBI identified 18 LII - P | Atlanta, GAU.S. cities where child prostitution is a major problem. Atlanta ranked number one on the list—a number city and community leaders are obviously not too happy about. However, they’re determined to combat the problem head on.
“It’s a moral evil. It’s a moral cancer in the midst of a great city, and it’s something as a faith-based community are trying to address,” stated Cheryl Deluca-Johnson with the non-profit group Street Grace

Her organization is a non-denominational alliance of churches, community partners, and volunteers whose goal is to bring an end to commercial sexual exploitation in Atlanta and duplicate these efforts in cities across America.

LII - PHoto | FBI“One of our initiatives is supporting at-risk neighborhoods,” she stated. “We know that if all we do is rescue rather than prevent children from entering it in the first place, then we’ll increase the number of children affected by it.”

Of course, Atlanta is not the only city grappling with this massive problem. According to the FBI,  the other following cities are hubs for human trafficking:

  • Chicago
  • Cleveland
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Knoxville
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Milwaukee
  • New Orleans
  • Norfolk
  • Omaha
  • Pittsburgh
  • Portland
  • Sacramento
  • San Diego
  • Seattle

Grooming: What It Is

Grooming is the process by which an offender draws a victim into a sexual relationship and maintains that relationship in secrecy. The shrouding of the relationship is an essential feature of grooming.

The grooming sex offender works to separate the victim from peers, typically by engendering in the child a sense that they are special to the child and giving a kind of love to the child that the child needs.

Child Prostitution and The Missing: The Link

One in six endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2014 were likely sex trafficking victims. This is up from one in seven in 2013.LII - P | NCFMEC

According to the organization, 68 percent of these likely sex trafficking victims were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran. However, victims could be anyone—your son, your daughter, neighbor, niece or nephew.

The Warning Signs

It’s not uncommon for a law enforcement officer to list a child as a runaway rather than endangered and a victim of sex trafficking. That’s why it’s so important to pay close attention to these ten warning signs below:

1. Unknown numbers on phone bills or unexpected credit card charges

It’s important that parents are attentive to a child’s phone bills. In an open and honest environment, it can be helpful to sit down and go over the charges/call with the child to learn who they’re interacting with.

2. Going missing from home at odd hours or for days

Although this warning sign may see somewhat obvious, it is usually the excuse or reasoning behind their absence or location that is cause or concern. Keep in mind that trafficker want to conceal the child’s activities by using threats or force, making it harder to verify their whereabouts.

3. Unexplained relationships or interactions with older adults

These types of relationships are clearly inappropriate, but the underlying danger is that the older individual could be manipulating or forcing the child to perform sexual acts or favors.

4. Alcohol or drug use

Alcohol and drugs are common ways that traffickers recruit children into the sex industry. The goal of the trafficker is to diminish a child’s natural resistance to unnatural situations and/or to get victims addicted so that they will do anything to get their next fix.

5. Bruising

Any signs of physical or sexual abuse are major causes for concern. Adults should be aware that predators seek anonymity; therefore, external signs of abuse may be hard to identify. More likely, evidence of abuse shows up in changes in behavior or emotions.

6. Delinquent behaviors or increase of criminal activity

Trafficked victims are not just forced to perform sexual favors. Traffickers force victims to steal, lie, cheat or con in addition to selling themselves. Many times, the victims are not engaging in these activities themselves but rather for the older adult.

7. Withdrawal or loss of interest in age appropriate activities

Children at risk of becoming victims exhibit low self-esteem and poor self-image. Predators will prey on children by convincing them that they are valued, thereby luring them away from normal activities and social interactions.

8. Sudden increase in absences and tardiness from school

If a child is not attending school or suddenly begins to miss a lot of school, then they are likely with someone else. Predators will seek to draw children away from activities that they don’t really like to convince them that more enjoyable activities can be had away from supervision.

9. New “street name”

Predators will convince children to go by other “street names” or pet names in order to conceal their identity and age.

10. Sudden change in dressing patterns, personal hygiene or grooming

This warning sign is not a typical teenager showing interest in make-up or nicer clothes. This is a sudden and drastic change in their appearance and grooming habits.

Need Help? 


Lauth Investigations and Thomas Lauth are experts in helping families  locate missing loved ones.

While each missing persons case is different and results will vary, Lauth has been helping families for more than 20 years and boasts nearly an 85% success rate.

If you or someone you know need assistance, call them today at 1.800.889.FIND or 317.951.1100