Teen in alleged human trafficking case said she was held against her will 4 days: reports

Crime Watch

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A teen girl in an alleged human trafficking case said she was held against her will at a Bakersfield motel for four days while forced to engage in sex acts with multiple men.

The 17-year-old identified Melton Smith, 32, of Bakersfield, and Aleaha Wheeler, 22, of Lompoc, as the two who kept her confined to the motel room, saying Smith assaulted her and threatened to kill her when she tried to leave, according to police reports filed in the case.

Smith and Wheeler have pleaded not guilty to charges including kidnapping and human trafficking and are next due in court March 19. Smith is held on $1 million bail, Wheeler on $500,000.

The teen said she was introduced to the suspects through a third party, and on Jan. 14 Wheeler picked her up and drove her to the bluffs, according to the reports filed in Superior Court. They listened to music until Smith arrived in a black Mercedes Benz, then followed him to the Vagabond Inn on Colony Street.

The teen said she told Wheeler she needed to go home because she had schoolwork, but Wheeler said she needed to do something first, the teen told police. Once they arrived at the motel, Wheeler said she was too tired to drive and would take her home in the morning, court documents said. Smith and Wheeler shared one bed, and the teen used the other.

Later, the teen told police, Smith forced her to smoke a “blunt” then told her to put on red lingerie. She said she refused at first but Smith grabbed her wrist and squeezed, telling her he knew all the pressure points so she better do what he said.

She put on the lingerie, then Smith photographed her and Wheeler, who was also in lingerie, the documents said. The teen told police Smith photographed them in sexual poses then posted the photos to a website where prices were attached to photos of different girls listed as available for sex.

The teen said eight or nine men showed up for “dates” during the next few days and she had sex with about half of them. She said was forced to engage in sex acts with them, and also with Smith.

She repeatedly asked to go home but Smith threatened her, the teen told police. She said he choked her on one occasion, slapped her and threatened to kill her.

On Jan. 18, she started screaming and Smith called a couple people who dropped her off near her home, she told police.

Investigators found pictures of the teen and Wheeler on the website, and the teen identified Wheeler and Smith in photo lineups, according to the documents. Police took them into custody.

Smith “rambled” about the charges he was facing and kept asking questions of a detective, but every time he was asked if he wanted to make a statement he requested an attorney, the documents said.

Wheeler told police she’s an independent escort. She said the teen had contacted her on social media and asked for her help, according to the documents.

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