Seasons in Hell: The Brutality of America's Modern Day Slave Trade
Nineteen-year-old Carina Saunders of Mustang, Oklahoma, was reported missing on September 28 of 2011 though investigators found reports of people seeing her alive and well in early October. On October 13, animal welfare workers looking for feral cats found the decapitated and mutilated body of Carina in a duffel bag behind a grocery store. It is believed the corpse was there several days before the gruesome discovery. Police had to initially look at her tattoos to determine an identity.
Authorities at first focused on a young "Juggalo" named Cody Perez, a violent ex-con who had recently pawned his set of chef's knives and fled the area. After all, a brutal killing by a fan of the band Insane Clown Posse would just be another crime in a long list of sensational stories involving the group. But police cleared Perez after a nine week investigation with dozens of witnesses uncovered a crime that seemed to come straight out of a horror movie by a group of criminals most Americans thought were long extinct -- slavers. We use the term "human traffickers" now, which sounds much more modern and urbane -- as if the victims are willing cargo on some underground railroad. But the reality is that America's modern day slave trade is as barbaric and brutal as slavery was before emancipation.
During the investigation into Carina's death, a 20-year-old woman -- who by some accounts may be a prostitute or a madam -- came forward to tell a tale so horrific that most would discount it as fantasy if not for the confessions that followed. She related how a drug dealer named Jimmy Lee Massey with ties to a gang that sold both drugs and slaves kidnapped her from a residence and took her to an abandoned building. There he restrained her while a still undisclosed number of people, including a man named Francisco Gomez, tortured and murdered Carina Saunders. The witness, who police are not naming because of what they perceive as very real threats to her life, reported that Massey forced her to watch the entire murder as a message to her and other women of what would happen to those who didn't cooperate with the gang.
A press conference held by Police Chief Phil Cole revealed even more disturbing details. The criminal organization Massey and Gomez were involved with has several Mexican nationals as members, indicating a transnational connection. The investigation led to multiple arrests for various crimes, but police have yet to apprehend everyone they know is involved in the gang. But most disturbing of all was the fact that Carina was simply a victim of opportunity.
The witness didn't know Carina, although both women knew Massey causally. Carina was known to be a drug user -- including hard drugs like meth and coke -- but police say she wasn't otherwise involved in any criminal activity. Since Massey was a dealer, it's likely he kidnapped her while she was buying; she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It is a story as horrific as it is common. These gangs lurk in the shadows of our cities, using the drug trade to help run the more lucrative and dangerous sex slave rings that are ubiquitous in any major metro area. Often the dealers recruit victims after hooking them on hard drugs, but it is far more common that known drug routes are used to transport illegal aliens into the country. Those illegals are billed exorbitant amounts for the trip which they can never hope to pay off and are given the option of "working" off their debts. For women and children, this means forced prostitution; for men, it is sometimes literal slave labor.
In Oklahoma, there are whispers that this gang is responsible for more than just Carina Saunders' death. Nineteen-year-old Kelsey Bransby was found murdered on October 27. She had attended the same high school as Carina and had similar drug problems, but friends say she had gotten clean and was trying to leave that life behind. After that decision she was shot in the face in her own apartment.
Seventeen-year-old Alina Fitzpatrick's nude body was found dumped on a rural Oklahoma City property. Alina had been home schooled because of bullying, and had complained prior to her disappearance that a "suspicious" man had been following her and had somehow gotten her cell phone number. The last person to see her alive was a friend who had given her a ride to an apartment that Alina was vague about who lived there. Pretty and blonde, Alina looked much younger than she was and some speculate she was targeted by traffickers.
Oklahoma, however, is not the only place where modern day slavers kidnap and pimp out women and children.
Forty-one-year-old Maurice Lerome Smith was just sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for pimping out a 17-year-old girl on Craigslist in the San Diego area. Smith promised the girl a job at a window washing company but then forced her into prostitution and set her nightly quota at $1,200. He had previously spent time in prison for trying to kidnap and prostitute a 13-year-old girl.
Twenty-four-year-old Walter Woods forced a mentally disabled 18-year-old into prostitution in Kent, Washington. He had a previous record of "luring children" and according to his victim, Woods had several girls that worked for him but they were now "with another pimp," meaning he sold them.
A woman named Satoria Youngblood was found in Flint, Michigan, pimping out teens and in possession of child pornography. She had been busted in Utah for the same charges just months before being caught in Michigan. She and her associates are believed to travel the country exploiting children for sex, using drugs and violence as leverage.
At Occupy New Hampshire, a woman named Justina Jensen picked up a 16-year-old runaway and began selling the girl online. When she was arrested it was announced that Jensen had faced similar charges in her native New York.
In St. Louis, sex slavers used an Obama-themed social club as cover for a drugs and prostitution ring that included at least one 15-year-old girl.
One thing that's missed in many of these lurid stories is that prior to being caught, many of these modern day slave traders have forced women and children to have sex with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of men. Men who know these women aren't willing, men who know these children are being robbed of their innocence. But they purchase them, and rape them, and move on without a care in the world.
That cold indifference to the plight of these women and children -- these modern day slaves -- is what makes this exploitation possible. It is not just the depravity of Jimmy Massey, Francisco Gomez, and their gang that murdered Carina Saunders; the apathy of the American public was an accessory in this crime. Heedless of the brutality in our midst, we float aimlessly through our vices, gulping down the "terrific mouthfuls of poison" Rimbaud wrote of in Night in Hell. We condemn thousands to season after season in Hell lest we confront our own demons and be forced to answer for our sins.