The parents of a teen who was trafficked after going missing from a Dallas Mavericks game have claimed that District Attorney John Creuzot’s office fumbled the case, leading to no prosecutions.
Ever since their daughter was rescued from sex traffickers in an Oklahoma City hotel 10 days after her disappearance in 2022, Kyle and Brooke Morris have been vocal about wanting to see those responsible brought to justice, as covered in The Dallas Express.
The authorities in Oklahoma arrested eight individuals, two of whom have pleaded guilty to trafficking and child porn charges. However, a Dallas County grand jury threw out the charges of sexual assault of a child levied against the man, 33-year-old Emanuel Cartagena, accused of luring the teen away from the American Airlines Center in the first place. The reason for this, according to the family’s attorney, is that Dallas County prosecutors “presented a half-assed case.”
“A 15-year-old girl with no phone, wallet, ID, or car doesn’t end up in Oklahoma unless she’s trafficked,” Zeke Fortenberry said, according to The Dallas Morning News. “And the first domino of that event, or first several dominoes, occurs in Dallas.”
“It’s been this terrible series of police work and prosecution work,” he added.
The Dallas Police Department allegedly refused to open a case at first despite the incident occurring in Council Member Jesse Moreno’s District 2. Fortenberry claimed that the victim’s father was told to go home and file a missing person’s report with North Richland Hills police because that was where the family lived. Yet that department neglected to open an investigation as well.
“The family continuously called the Dallas Police Department to seek their assistance but were never given any help to find their daughter,” Fortenberry alleged, according to KTUL.
DPD currently employs only about 3,000 officers, although a City report recommends that a municipality the size of Dallas should have closer to 4,000 to ensure public safety. The effects of this deficit are most apparent in Downtown Dallas, which steadily logs higher crime rates than Fort Worth’s downtown area, which is patrolled by a dedicated police unit and private security guards.
The Morrises eventually instead reached out to the nonprofit Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative, the investigators of which later found sexually explicit images of the missing teen on a website known for prostitution.
With Cartagena’s arrest several months later, Assistant District Attorney Summer Elmazi handled the case and yet met with the teen victim just once and failed to perform a forensic interview, Fortenberry claimed, according to the DMN. She also allegedly declined when the family offered her their daughter’s medical records and therapy notes.
Since grand jury deliberations are confidential by law, it is impossible to know for certain what led to the case against Cartagena being no-billed. The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office has not commented publicly on the case, which has been officially closed.
This is much to the dismay of the Morrises, who view this inaction as only serving to further silence sex trafficking victims, as previously covered in The Dallas Express. In 2023, Dallas saw 60 human trafficking incidents reported, representing a 15.4% increase from the year prior, according to the crime analytics dashboard.
DA Creuzot has faced considerable criticism in the past, with his detractors claiming he is soft on crime. Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson recently remarked that he has been “begging” local judges and Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot to “be tougher” on criminals.