Homicide victim found Monday was at Bakersfield motel shut down for human trafficking

Homicide News

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Union Avenue motel already shut down by a human trafficking investigation was the scene of a homicide early Monday morning.

A Monday press release by the Bakersfield Police Department had said a woman was found dead at 1:23 AM, on the 500 block of South Union Avenue. On Wednesday, BPD specified the body was found at the run-down Desert Star Motel. The motel hasn’t operated since January, but some boards at windows of the building had been removed as of Tuesday evening. In an email, Bakersfield Police Sergeant Robert Pair said investigators are still trying to figure out how or why the body was at the motel.

“There is definitely a large transient population in that immediate area,” Pair wrote. “Regarding the victim’s status of why she was at the property, this is still an open investigation and investigators are attempting to confirm the circumstances.”

Anyone with more information about the homicide can contact BPD at (661) 327-7111.

The future of the building itself is questionable. The multi-agency human trafficking investigation led to charges against both the owner and manager. At the time, District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer called the motel “a modern day brothel.” The motel had been boarded up and fenced off. But over the last six months, the fences have come down and some of the boards removed by possible squatters. The motel has become obviously dilapidated, on top of issues it already had.

According to the City of Bakersfield, a joint inspection by Kern County Environmental Health and Bakersfield code enforcement was done a few days after the sting. The building and its utilities were found to be “substandard” and unlivable. Public Information Officer Joe Conroy says the building is regularly re-inspected, but several issues haven’t been resolved. Conroy said this morning, the Bakersfield Police Department asked for all major entryways to be boarded up. Conroy said the city had to secure a contractor to help with that work because of the building’s size, which should be completed in the next 10 days.

The building’s owner has not gone to trial yet. Jatinbhai Bhakta is accused of knowing, and profiting, from rampant prostitution at the motel, with minors among the victims. Co-defendant Roy Drees, a convicted sex offender who worked as the motel’s general manager, is also charged in the case. Both are due back in federal court August 18.

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