Thursday, March 30, 2006

Two teen runaways were raped and prostituted, drugged to keep them compliant and pistol-whipped

Joshua Freed:

Lameia Ball, 34, Alphonso Mitchell, 33

A mother and two of her teenage sons have been charged. Police arrested other adults who lived in the home, though they have not been charged.

Police began investigating after one of the girls escaped and wound up at a home for runaways. Court documents identify the girls only by their initials.

One of the girls said a man she met on the streets lured her to a St. Paul home by saying he wanted her to baby-sit for a friend. At the home, a woman told the girl "she had been brought there to 'ho' for her," according to the complaint charging Lamiea Shellike Ball, 34, with kidnapping and false imprisonment.

Attorneys for Ball and her 16-year-old son declined to comment Friday on the charges filed this week. An attorney for the accused 15-year-old son did not return a phone message from The Associated Press.

The girl told police she wanted to leave, but said Ball pistol-whipped her and forced her into a closet for several hours. The girl said that was the beginning of several weeks of captivity, where she was forced to wear little or no clothing, was ordered to work as a prostitute, and was beaten with a pistol or belt whenever she refused. Newspaper ads brought prostitution customers to the house, and she was kept in a closet when she wasn't working, according to the charges.

Another 16-year-old was also kept at the house, according to the charges, and was sometimes taken to hotels to work as a prostitute, while the first girl was locked in a closet at the house. Both girls said they were given crack cocaine and sleeping pills.

The first girl said the gun was never out of Ball's reach.

She escaped once, after being beaten by Ball and the man who had brought her to the house. A police affidavit for a search warrant said the girl was punched, choked, kicked and hit with a cane. The girl met with two other homeless friends, who later told police that the girl appeared to have been beaten when they saw her.

But soon after, as she walked along a sidewalk, the girl saw Ball's green minivan pull up, and Ball allegedly pointed a gun at her and forced her back to the house. The girl escaped again about two weeks later and made her way to the runaway shelter, according to the charges.

Other witnesses also verified seeing injuries to the girl, police said.

Once police heard the first girl's story, their focus quickly turned toward finding the house so they could help the other girl. They found her in a search of the house on March 17. That girl said she had been held at the home for about three months, and that Ball had threatened to kill her or members of her family if she ran away, according to the affidavit.

That girl also said Ball had claimed to be a powerful voodoo priestess, and had threatened to use voodoo on her.

One witness told police of visiting the home recently and seeing the second girl go into a small closet under a stairway. When this person asked Ball why the girl was in the closet, Ball said the girl was shy.

Police said they believe there may be other girls who were held similarly at the house, although they have not yet verified any.

The girls are safe now, said police Sgt. Paul Schnell, who led the investigation. They "are doing OK. But there's no doubt in my mind that there's going to be long-term effect and impact" from what they went through, he said.

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