Sex trafficking investigation launched after NY runaway found here
The discovery of a juvenile runaway from New York in Limestone County has led to a human trafficking arrest and a joint investigation involving local, New York state and federal authorities.
"It doesn't have to be a big city to have a major problem,” said Kosse Police Chief Mark Morris. "This is a problem, it's a bigger problem than people realize it is."
Limestone County deputies assisted Morris Friday night after he was contacted by detectives from NYPD’s Sex Crimes Division in Brooklyn who said they believed an underage girl who went missing about two weeks ago was being held against her will in a motor home in the city.
“We’d had several citizens say they'd seen her earlier that night, one of the citizens just happened to say ‘oh, I saw her go in an RV over here just a while ago,’ so that kind of gave us a good run as where to look for her,” said Morris. “Sure enough, that’s where she was at.”
Local authorities found the 15-year-old girl with a 48-year-old man inside an RV at the Camp Kosse RV Park at 608 W. Washington St.
“Anytime something in a small town is different, it catches our eye…a good example is the RV park where she was staying; I know 90 percent of the people that live there, so I knew who was there and who had just come in,” said Morris. “He was never a resident of Kosse, he was just passing through.”
Morris said Billy Harmon Dunn, Jr., the suspect from out-of-state, had only been in Kosse for about a month.
"Whole lot harder to get away with stuff in small towns than it is in big towns,” said Morris.
According to a source with direct knowledge of the investigation, the girl met Dunn online through an adult website.
Authorities, including the FBI, were able to trace her location after she sent an email to her mother saying she wanted to come home but wasn’t allowed to leave, said the source.
After locating the girl, she was transported to the Limestone County Juvenile Detention Facility and Dunn was detained while they called County Attorney Roy DeFriend to help with obtaining arrest and search warrants overnight.
After the warrants were signed by Judge Richard Duncan, Dunn was arrested around 4am Saturday and the RV was searched for potential evidence.
"If anybody wanted to do a video on how agencies work together to accomplish a goal, they should have made one Friday night,” said Morris. “We did confiscate quite a few items in there, electronic devices and other things, the FBI is going to send them to a forensic lab to determine what's actually going on with this case."
Morris praised the local agencies involved including deputies with the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office.
"One case is all you need to disrupt the community, and we don't want any cases in Limestone County," said Sheriff Dennis Wilson. "There are a lot of evil people out there that want to do harm to our children and ourselves as well, so I would encourage our parents to be actively involved with the activities of their children, wherever they are."
Wilson said parents, in Limestone County and elsewhere, need to pay attention to what their children do online and who they talk to.
"The priority here for parents is to make sure you monitor the activities of your children whether it's electronically monitoring what they have or physically monitoring where they are, who their contacts are, and who they're seeing because an incident like this, this was a self-contact issue that got out of hand very quickly, and so it's very critical that our parents pay attention to what their children are doing, more importantly who their contacts are," said Wilson.
The girl’s mother flew-in from New York to pick up her daughter from the LCJDF and bring her home, but not before meeting with FBI agents who police said Tuesday had also met with Dunn on multiple occasions since his arrest.
Kosse police charged Dunn with felony human trafficking and interference with child custody, however, federal charges could be forthcoming.
"It’s kind of like fishing: you catch it, you clean it – well, we caught it, we cleaned it and they're cooking it now, so where it goes from here is up to them,” said Morris.
Dunn remained jailed in Limestone County Wednesday morning in lieu of bonds totaling $80,000.