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Attorney Says Teen Trafficking Case Was Preventable

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Dallas Police car | Image by Keith J Finks

As reported by The Dallas Express, a teenage girl became the victim of a trafficking case in April that began at American Airlines Center. Now, the family’s attorney is speaking out against several groups he feels could have helped prevent the crime, according to WFAA.

Police found the 15-year-old girl on April 18, a week and a half after she went missing, in an Oklahoma City hotel room after her parents identified her in a nude photograph online. She was being advertised for sex.


Zeke Fortenberry represents the family. He sent out several letters last week to groups he believes could have prevented this situation from escalating and may have even been able to keep the minor from being abducted.

In his release, Fortenberry named the Oklahoma City hotel, the Dallas Police Department, the Dallas Mavericks, and the American Airlines Center as negligent parties for failing to prevent the abduction.

According to Fortenberry, the girl’s father informed Dallas police that his daughter was missing, but instead of helping him, they instructed him to return home and reach out to the police department for North Richland Hills, where he is a resident. When he did so, the department reportedly told him it could not help because she had not gone missing from North Richland Hills.

Frustrated, the family enlisted the help of a Houston-based agency called the Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative, which used its face-recognition technology to locate the girl.

“That agency was able to help them locate the photograph of their daughter online within the same day,” Fortenberry said.

“The Dallas Police Department never asked for a photo of the daughter,” he added.

After locating the girl, the group informed the Oklahoma City Police Department. Officers rescued her and arrested eight people in connection with the crime.

Officials with the Dallas Police Department stated that an off-duty police officer was working at the American Airlines Center on April 8 when someone reported the teen missing.

At that time, officers searched the center but were unable to find her. The department gave the following statement about the protocol in such situations to WFAA:

“Texas Family Code (51.03 b.3) dictates that missing juveniles be 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.”

North Richland Hills PD confirmed that it had received the missing person report at 1:27 a.m. on April 9 and had entered the 15-year-old into the national missing person database by 3:24 a.m.

DPD also noted it aided North Richland Hills PD by creating a bulletin that went out on April 11.

Even so, Fortenberry states that DPD’s efforts were insufficient.

“The girl was being sexually assaulted in a hotel room multiple nights,” he said. “Any time she could have been rescued from that sooner would have been better.”

Fortenberry is targeting the hotel because he believes the staff should have known the girl was in danger.

“When a 40-something-year-old man walks in with a 15-year-old girl and rents multiple hotel rooms, and then there is traffic coming in and out of those rooms, those are red flags,” he said.

Fortenberry said he has not received a response from the Dallas Mavericks, the American Airlines Center, or the hotel, but is hopeful they can settle this matter without going to court.

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