JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A mentally disabled woman being advertised as a prostitute on Backpage was rescued from a Jacksonville hotel room by police early Tuesday morning, and the man and woman police say were profiting off her were charged with human trafficking.
Demontre Clark, 25, and Tamia Oliver, 20, are also charged with living off the earnings of a prostitute, and Clark was charged with abuse of a disabled adult.
The woman, whose name and age are not being released, was reported missing Feb. 9 by her mother after the woman's school said she had missed her special needs class. The mother told police that her other daughter found out the woman was being advertised for sexual services on Backpage. Police said they were able to confirm the Backpage ad was for the missing woman, who had been declared incompetent in Clay County Court about two months ago.
A family friend and an investigator posed as potential clients and sent text messages Monday night to the phone numbers on the ad, trying to find out where the woman was being kept, according to an arrest report.
The investigator learned she was at the Baymont Inn & Suites on Blanding Boulevard, and the family friend found out she was in room 230. The investigator was also quoted prices for the woman's services: $100 for 30 minutes and $65 for 15 minutes.
After surrounding the room with marked and unmarked police cars and verifying with the manager that the woman had been staying in room 230 for 21 days, investigators got a search warrant early Tuesday morning, forced their way into the room, arrested Clark and Oliver, and took the woman to see her mother.
The woman had a black eye and bruises on her legs and face.
Investigators described the woman as “very childlike,” and during the interview after she was pulled from the hotel room, she told police that Clark, who she called “Marcus,” had hit her “for no reason.”
She told police she ended up with Clark and Oliver after she “found a white guy on Facebook who brought me here.”
She told police she had sex with about two men every night, and that she gave all the money she made to “Marcus.” She said Clark had given her marijuana at the hotel.
The woman's mother told investigators that her daughter can't spell or count money.
When investigators asked who posted the Backpage ad, the woman said “my friend TT.” Detectives determined “TT” is Oliver.
Ishwar Patel, who owns an upscale hotel next door to Baymont, said he's not heard of human trafficking taking place in Jacksonville.
"This is the first time. It made me sick,” Patel said.
He said he keeps a close eye on the guests he doesn't know at the Country Inn & Suites.
“But anything can happen anywhere. We know that,” he said.
Kristin Keen's business, Rethreaded, gives survivors of human trafficking a second chance through employment.
"It still shocks me, and it still breaks my heart, and it just makes me want to work harder to advocate for change,” Keen said of hearing stories like this one.
Shes said the victim in this case is very lucky to have a sister staying on top of the case.
"She was aware. She knew her sister. She was, you know, involved in her life,” Keen said. “She was protecting her and when she went missing, she fought for her. That's really beautiful and really admirable."
For more information on Rethreaded and how you can help fight human trafficking in Northeast Florida, go to rethreaded.com.