Three people have been arrested in what authorities are calling the most “severe and disturbing” case of human trafficking they’ve ever investigated.
Louisiana authorities say three people have been arrested and charged for allegedly keeping a transgender woman as a slave and forcing her to perform sexual acts — among other things against her will — for several months.
The victim was held captive as a sex slave, tortured, and forced to perform menial tasks at a trailer residence located in the rural, unincorporated community of Ajax, La., in Natchitoches Parish, authorities said when announcing the arrests. Police are calling it the most “severe and disturbing” case of human trafficking they have ever investigated, according to Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Victor Jones Jr.
“In 30-something years of law enforcement in this area, this is probably one of the most gruesome deals that I’ve ever heard of, and I never experienced anything like it before,” Jones told reporters at a briefing, according to The Town Talk. “I always say, by the time you think you’ve seen it all, something else comes along and takes place.”
After an “intense” investigation involving multiple agencies in the state, authorities have identified three suspects — a couple, David Rodriguez Jr., 37, and Christina Marie Harper, 39; and Ambre Tubbs Lomas, 39 — who were arrested June 4 after turning themselves in to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.
The victim, who authorities have identified only as an out-of-state transgender woman in her fifties, apparently fled the residence May 31 in her captors’ vehicle and came into contact with a town marshall at a business near Interstate 49 and University Parkway in Natchitoches around 11:11 p.m. — a logging chain hanging attached to her neck.
She frantically told police she had been held against her will and forced to into sexual acts and labor and was taken to a nearby hospital after police discovered bruises and lacerations on her body. Natchitoches firefighters had to remove the chain and the victim was treated before being taken into protective custody.
In the following days, investigators discovered grim and disturbing details in the case.
Courtesy Natchitoches Parish Sheriff
Courtesy Natchitoches Parish Sheriff
According to police, the victim met the couple online and voluntarily agreed to move into their home several months ago for a consensual relationship. She was allegedly enslaved by Rodriguez and tattooed with a barcode identifying her as a slave on a website that police did not identify. She was forced to complete daily labor, such as preparing meals and drinks, installing a swimming pool, caring for animals, and removing fallen trees from the yard, as well as sexual acts. Police say that if the victim did not comply, she was beaten, shocked with a stun gun, and splashed with urine. She slept in a 3-foot-by-5-foot wooden box in Rodriguez and Harper’s bedroom.
When the victim asked to leave because of the beatings, her captors chained her in the woods and inside of a building for several days with little food and water or urine to drink before escaping, according to the release from police.
In a search of the residence, police seized 15 firearms, a stun gun, four computers, a digital video camera and various other electronics that police are examining for evidence. Two children at the home, ages 15 and 16, were removed by the State Office of Child Protective Services.
Rodriguez and Harper were charged with one count of human trafficking, one count of aggravated second-degree battery, one count of second-degree kidnapping/false imprisonment, and two counts of offenses against computer users. Bond was set for each of them at $635,000. Lomas was charged with one count of second-degree kidnapping/false imprisonment and one count of aggravated second-degree battery, and faced bond was set at $525,000.
A message was left with the sheriff’s Chief Investigator Greg Dunn seeking additional comment on Tuesday.