Minot teen from sex trafficking case goes missing; 18-year-old suspect sought
MINOT, N.D. – A 16-year-old sex trafficking victim in a Minot case is now missing -- disappearing from a Las Vegas airport after she was flown home.
But before the teen went missing in Las Vegas, she had run away from a foster care worker in Minot, police said.
Lt. Jason Sundbakken of the Minot Police Department said the teen was being placed in temporary custody of foster care when she fled from the worker and jumped into another car.
The teen was later found in Idaho and authorities had placed her on a flight to Las Vegas on Monday, according to a statement from Clark County (Nevada) Juvenile Justice Services.
The flight arrived 16 minutes early and the teen left before staff with the juvenile justice services program arrived to meet her at the gate, the statement said. The agency is now reviewing its protocols and Las Vegas police are trying to find the missing girl.
Another victim in the case, a 14-year-old whose disappearance started the investigation after her mother discovered the missing girl’s ads on Backpage.com in Minot, arrived home safely on a flight from North Dakota on Monday, her mother confirmed Thursday.
Meanwhile, Ward County prosecutors have charged a second individual with human trafficking, a Class AA felony, in connection with the case.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Kevin Jackson Fleming, 18, who Minot police believe may be in the Las Vegas area.
Ward County Deputy State’s Attorney Kelly Dillon said authorities don’t have many resources if they encounter minor victims of sex trafficking.
“Right now, the only thing we can do is refer them to social services until we can make contact with a parent and then release them with their parent,” Dillon said. “We’re not treating them as criminals, we’re not charging them with prostitution.”
Adult victims of human trafficking are often referred to the local domestic violence crisis center, but that’s not an appropriate option for unaccompanied juveniles, Dillon said.
“Right now, we’re limited by what’s available to us,” she said.
In this case, the 14-year-old victim had been identified as a runaway from Las Vegas and was held in juvenile detention until arrangements could be made to get her home, Lt. Sundbakken said.
The girl’s mother, Sherry, said Thursday she’s thankful to Minot police for getting her daughter home safely to her.
The 16-year-old was not initially identified as a runaway and was being placed into protective custody of foster care, Sundbakken said. Police did not have specific information that the 16-year-old was a victim of sex trafficking until later, he added.
The 16-year-old’s mother has hired a Las Vegas attorney, Vicki Greco, who is investigating the teen’s disappearance.
“My main concern right now is for her safety,” Greco said Thursday. “Even though everyone’s touting her as a runaway, I see her as a child who’s been manipulated by bad, bad people.”
Windie Lazenko, founder of 4her North Dakota, which assists victims of sex trafficking, said she reached out to Minot police and offered to meet with the victims but they didn’t use her services.
“We are going to have minors and we need to have collaboration in place so that this exact thing doesn’t happen,” Lazenko said.
Dillon said the mother of the 14-year-old was provided information about 4her North Dakota.
“We can’t force people to accept services,” Dillon said.
The state’s anti-sex trafficking coalition, FUSE, is working to develop a protocol for agencies to follow when they identify minor victims of sex trafficking, said coordinator Christina Sambor.
“This illustrates the need to really integrate victim services to the extent possible,” Sambor said. “We’ve all got to work together because these cases are very complicated.”
Minot police say Fleming, the latest individual charged in the case, may be driving a 2015 Chrysler 200 with Nevada license plates number 788 AYL. The public is asked to call Minot police at (701) 852-0111 with information.
Tayari Meadows, 20, is being held in the Ward County Jail on the same charge in
connection with the incident.