Eight arrested in Oklahoma in connection with Texas teen allegedly trafficked from basketball game

Oklahoma City police have arrested eight people in connection with an alleged teen trafficking case of a 15-year-old girl who disappeared from a Dallas Mavericks game in April that has left the family wondering why more wasn’t done more quickly to bring their daughter home after the Dallas  Police Department refused to open an investigation.

The girl was seen on surveillance video leaving the April 8 Mavericks game at the American Airlines Center with a man after she had made a trip to the bathroom. After 10 days missing, she was discovered on April 18 in an Oklahoma City Extended Stay America hotel, about 200 miles from where she was taken.

Although she first went missing in Dallas, the Dallas Police Department (DPD) declined to open an investigation and instead directed the parents to file a missing person report in the jurisdiction of North Richland Hills where the family resides.

According to a statement by the DPD obtained by Fox News, “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. Those cases per code are to be filed where the juvenile resides.”

“Those cases per code are to be filed where the juvenile resides,” the department said. “A report was generated by Dallas Police and Dallas Police assisted the North Richland Hills Police Department (lead agency as that was where the teen resided) and a bulletin about the missing teen was created and went out to the department on April 11, 2022.”

The family’s attorney argued that more should have been done to save the teenager from the treacherous situation more quickly and demanded accountability for the Mavericks facility that he alleged allowed the man to use a fake ticket to enter the game.

“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,” the family’s attorney Zeke Fortenberry explained to Fox News in a statement.

Their legal counsel also blasted the hotel for not questioning a man purchasing multiple hotel rooms for multiple nights and the traffic that was apparently generated to those rooms while he was there.

“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,” he said.

Among the newly incarcerated are Saniya Alexander, Melissa Wheeler, Chevaun Gibson, Kenneth Nelson, Sarah Hayes, Karen Gonzales, Thalia Gibson, and Steven Hill who are being held on various charges such as rape, human trafficking, distribution of child pornography, and prostitution, Fox News reported.

“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,” the teenager’s mother said in a statement.

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