A complaint about a woman being kept in a backyard cage led Amite, Louisiana, police to the discovery of an alleged sex trafficking ring. Police found that an autistic woman was being forced into prostitution during the day and kept locked-up in a “kennel” at night.
Officers from the Amite Police Department were called to a home after neighbors complained about a woman being kept in the backyard. Officers found a woman at the home in the yard and described her as being malnourished, covered in insect bites and living in a shrub-covered 6-by-8-foot outdoor cage, Baton Rouge’s The Advocate reported on Friday.
Police learned the 22-year-old woman was an autistic person with the functional capacity of a minor. The people who were holding her captive appear to be related to the woman in some way and were allegedly forcing her to perform sexual acts as a prostitute. She reportedly was being kept in the outdoor cage for about nine months.
Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards told reporter Keidi Kinchen that the woman was forced to perform sexual acts on several people. They had also planned on taking her to some undisclosed specific location for sexual acts with “a large group of people.” The sheriff said the captors would receive money for her sexual acts.
“The lesson here, as far as I can tell, is that there are some very sick individuals in this world, and there are some sick individuals in Tangipahoa Parish,” Edwards told Kinchen. “Human trafficking doesn’t discriminate. It exists in Shreveport. It exists in New Orleans. It exists in Tangipahoa Parish. It exists in St. Tammany Parish. It exists everywhere there are people.”
The captors were arrested and charged with human trafficking and cruelty to the infirm. They were identified by authorities as: Terry Knope (43); Raylaine Knope (40); Taylor Knope (18); Jody Lambert (21); and Bridget Lambert (19).
Authorities reported there were four minor children in the home. The children were removed from the home and placed in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.
Sheriff Edwards told the reporter that the children did not appear malnourished like the autistic woman. He could not say if they had been sexually abused. He did; however, say they had reason to believe that the children may have witnessed some of the abusive treatment of the woman.
The cage resembled a dog kennel, WWL CBS4 reported. There was a five-gallon bucket inside the cage provided as a toilet. She was taken to a hospital for treatment for being malnourished and was turned over to the Louisiana Department of Health, Adult/Elderly Protective Services.
Sheriff Edwards told The Advocate he believes additional charges could be filed but he does not expect for there to be any additional arrests. The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office is working with the sheriff to search for additional evidence on a computer found in the home.
“To live in these conditions, anywhere in the world, is unacceptable,” Edwards said. “In the United States, It’s unimaginable.”