Local News

Detectives arrest four in human trafficking investigation

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane County Sheriff's Office has arrested four people in the first reported case of human trafficking in Spokane County.

Four people were arrested during a SWAT raid Wednesday at a home on East Nora. One victim came forward, telling investigators she's been held captive for more than a year and forced to perform sexual acts.

Detectives are now trying to determine if there are more victims.

The victim, who we will not identify because she is the victim of sexual abuse, told detectives the people who were holding her captive would sell her for sex. She says she would be taken to various hotels, put in a room and told what sex acts to perform.

She says the arrangements were made through online ads, and four people typically drove her to the hotels and gave her instructions on what to do.

Human Trafficking arrests

Police said those four people -- Christopher Foster, Shannell Haddon, Lawrence Johnson and Dina Tellez -- were arrested Wednesday. Johnson is charged with first-degree kidnapping. The other three are all scheduled to be in court Thursday afternoon on charges of first-degree trafficking.

In the paperwork filed in Johnson's case, the victim says "she was forced to take drugs, mainly to smoke meth. She said that she has been forced to engage in sex with the men she named as her captors as well as their friends, sometimes at gunpoint."

She added that she was beaten up and intimidated and "knows that if she leaves, she would 'end up dead.'"

The victim told investigators there are other young girls that she believes are also being held against their will.

She called a friend early Tuesday morning and said she had run away from a house on 1st and Haven because she was scared. The woman made it to her friend's house and told her about her captivity. She described a home in Spokane Valley where she said she'd been held, and detectives found the home near the intersection of Pines and Nora. The victim agreed to accompany detectives to the area, and she confirmed that was the home.

The victim told detectives she saw four or five young girls sitting on a bed in the basement of that home four days ago. She said there "was a dead bolt lock on the door at the top of the basement stairs." When detectives served a search warrant on the home this week, they found the bed in the basement. They also found a "large amount of stolen property strewn about the house, including tools and laptop computers."

Detectives also observed "a large amount of foot traffic and vehicle traffic ... while the house was being watched for 2-3 hours prior to the search warrant being served." Detectives also saw "several cars leave, some of which contained young females."

Was Marcus Schur murdered for helping victim?

Marcus Schur was killed at a Malden home in late December in what authorities in Whitman County claimed was retaliation for a burglary in Rosalia. Four men -- Travis Carlon, Eli Lindsey and brothers Frank and Daniel Lazcano -- were arrested for Schur's killing.

But in court documents the victim claimed that Schur was her former boyfriend and had tried to get her out and protect her from the people who had been holding her captive. Detectives, in corroborating her story, found a news article from KXLY that detailed Schur's killing in December.

She claimed that Schur was murdered not as retaliation for burglary but for trying to help the woman get away from her captors.

Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said Thursday afternoon that the victim's claims Schur was killed for trying to help her were not true. Sheriff Myers said that while the victim and Schur had dated in the past, there was no connection between the trafficking case in Spokane County and Schur's murder in Whitman County.

Initial appearances and a conviction

Lawrence Johnson made his first appearance Wednesday, where his bond was set at $20,000 on the kidnapping charge. Foster, Haddon and Tellez all appeared before Judge Sam Cozza Thursday on first-degree kidnapping charges. Foster and Haddon had their bonds set at $150,000 while Tellez had her bond set at $10,000.

A fifth person named in court documents as having been involved in the trafficking operation was Trevor Franklin. Franklin was previously arrested on a assault charge for attacking the victim; he pleaded guilty in Judge Cozza's courtroom on April 23 on a charge of third-degree assault.

Listed as being "high risk to commit a violent crime", Frankin is currently at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton. His earlier release date is December of 2012.

The investigation into this case is ongoing.

For latest details on this case throughout the day, follow @kxly4news, @colleenokxly and @melissakxly4