LATEST NEWS 2018-05-29T16:25:42+00:00

Human Trafficking: More than 400 LA victims in 2016

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Louisiana serves as a hub of child sex trafficking… both children sold by family members to pay rent or for drugs, as well as traffickers who bring them to cities such as Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans to be prostituted out of cheap hotels (Lex Talamo)


The six recent arrests in Bossier Parish for human trafficking, in which young women were transported into the state from Arkansas in a stolen U-Haul vehicle, are symptomatic of a much larger problem plaguing the state.

Human trafficking in Louisiana has increased by 25 percent since 2015—with 447 victims reported statewide in 2016, according to a recently released report from the Department of Children and Family Services.

Caddo and Orleans parishes reported the most victims, for both victims trafficked into the communities from other areas as well as victims who resided within the parishes—with 147 and 223 victims, respectively.

Of the victims rescued from Caddo Parish, 69—or 47 percent—were 17 years old or younger. Bossier Parish, while not ranking high in number of victims compared to other cities, reported 6 victims of sex trafficking.

The vast majority of victims were rescued from sex trafficking, with less than 1 percent of victims identified for labor trafficking. According to the report, of the sex trafficking victims:

  • 201 victims were 17 years old or younger
  • 20 victims were 12 years old or younger
  • 90 percent of overall victims were female
  • 64 percent of overall victims were African American
  • 26 percent of overall victims were Caucasian
  • None of the reported victims were from a foreign country.

The youngest victim was age 2.

RELATED: The dark underworld business of sex trafficking in Louisiana

DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters believes the 2017 report is “just scratching the surface” of the overall epidemic of human trafficking.

“This report is undeniable evidence human trafficking exists, and it’s a significant threat to our children and young people,” Walters said in a press release.

More than 21 victims had been trafficked through multiple jurisdiction, with an additional 52 coming into Louisiana from other states—including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, New Mexico and Wisconsin, among others.

Pimps—or predators who either force or seduce children into the world of sex trafficking called “the life”—recruit children from different locations, but the most common are middle schools, juvenile detention centers and group homes, according to a 2016 Department of Justice Report.

The DOJ also noted an increased use of online communication platforms for predators to recruit children, including social media sites, mobile apps and texting.

Only 17 of 59 agencies responded to DCFS’s request for data.

DCFS noted challenges to collecting data for the report included that there is “no requirement” for surveyed agencies to provide data and also that some agencies voiced concern about whether submitting data would conflict with federal law.

In Caddo-Bossier, five agencies provided data: Caddo Parish District Attorney, Caddo Parish Juvenile Services, the Gingerbread House, Purchased: Not for Sale and the Shreveport Police Department.

DCFS is working with several agencies to increase agency participation for upcoming years, including developing more effective screening tools, discussing confidentiality concerns with the Federal Office on Trafficking in Persons and implementing a prevention curriculum that addresses human trafficking.

“By increasing coordination between law enforcement, service providers and others, we can work together in every part of the state to fight human trafficking, identify victims and get them the resources they need,” Walters said.

BY THE NUMBERS: Reported number of sex trafficking victims by parish

447        total victims statewide

223        Orleans Parish

147        Caddo Parish

54           Jefferson Parish

23           East Baton Rouge Parish

14           St. Bernard Parish

12           Livingston Parish

10           Calcasieu Parish and Lafayette (each)

9             Rapides Parish

8             Tangipahoa Parish

6             Bossier Parish

Note: The parishes of DeSoto, Jefferson Davis, Lake Charles, Monroe, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Plaquemines, Sabine, St. Charles, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Terrebonne and West Baton Rouge reported five victims or less.

Source: Department of Children and Family Services, 2017 report

Child abuse case in California spotlights lack of oversight of home schooling

California’s lack of regulations for home schooling has “created a shield that allows this stuff to happen,” an education policy professor said.


The arrest of a California couple accused of abusing their 10 children — including waterboarding them, shooting them with crossbows and pouring scalding water on them, prosecutors said — is the latest case to raise questions about the oversight of home schooling.

The couple, Ina Rogers and Jonathan Allen, never sent their children to the local public schools in Fairfield, California, and school officials there said they did not have contact with them. Authorities have saidthe children lived in squalor and described intentional abuse that led to puncture wounds, burns, bruising and injuries consistent with being shot with a pellet gun. Rogers was charged Wednesday with nine counts of felony child abuse, and Allen, her husband, faces nine counts of felony torture and six counts of felony child abuse. They deny the charges.

The case comes four months after the 13 children of David Allen Turpin and Louise Ann Turpin were found bound, shackled and malnourished at their Perris, California, home in January after one of the children managed to escape and tell authorities that her 12 siblings were being held by their parents.

And it follows the deadly crash in March in which a car believed to be carrying the eight members of the Hart family plunged off a California cliff. Police said Jennifer Hart, who had faced child abuse allegations in three states, was drunk when she pulled off the coastal highway and intentionally drove the GMC Yukon with her wife and six children off the cliff.

The children in all three cases had been taught at home by their parents.

About 1.7 million children ages 5 to 17 were estimated to be home-schooled in the U.S. in 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and for the vast majority, nothing goes wrong. But child safety advocates say the absence of regulations around home schooling enables a small but alarming number of parents to abuse their children and avoid detection. Children who are taught at home have less contact with mandatory child abuse reporters like teachers and school nurses, advocates note.

“This isn’t new — this is the unfortunate consequence of lack of oversight for home schooling,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, which advocates safe learning environments for home-schooled children.


Home schooling laws vary by state. In California, parents who want to home-school their children can either register with the state as a private school, or they can join an “umbrella school” or charter school, which does not require them to submit their information to the state’s database, Coleman said. Some of these umbrella schools have a physical address and offer group activities, while others exist only on paper. Either way, they give parents the ability to educate their children at home without notifying the state.

“They don’t want their address or their names on any lists, so by enrolling in an umbrella school you just enroll, sometimes online, pay the annual fee and that’s it,” said Coleman, who was home-schooled from kindergarten through high school in Indiana.

Efforts to add more oversight in California have faltered after meeting fierce opposition from parents who home school and say such regulations would interfere with their ability to educate their children as they see fit.

Fourteen states have regulations similar to California’s, while others require no notification at all for parents to home-school their children. And only about half of states require home-schooled students to take assessment tests to ensure they’re learning, according to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education.

Coleman said that while the recent California cases have received a lot of attention, her organization has charted dozens of similar incidents in the state in the past five years.

The California State Department of Education told NBC News that Rogers and Allen had not registered their home as a private school. It remains unclear if they were home-schooling their children within the state’s regulations.

The children were never enrolled in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District, said Tim Goree, the district’s executive director of administrative services and community engagement.

“Until this case broke and we heard about it from the police, we have never had any contact with any of the children,” he said.

Goree said it was possible the family had legally home-schooled their children “without ever checking in with a local school district” if they were enrolled in an umbrella school.

“We wish we could have known and done something, but we had no idea,” he said.

The state Department of Education said in a statement that it does not oversee how families choose to home-school their children.

“We are sickened by this tragedy and encourage everyone to report incidents of suspected child abuse,” the department said. “However, under current California law, private and home schools must register with the state, but the California Department of Education does not approve, monitor, inspect, or oversee them. We will gladly work with legislators to consider ways to change the law.”

Rogers said child protection officials visited their home several years ago and interviewed the children, but nothing came of it. The agencies that would be responsible for those types of visits, California’s Child Welfare Policy and Program Development Bureau and Child Welfare Services in Solano County, where Fairfield is, did not immediately return requests for comment.

Image: Jonathan Allen and his wife, Ina Rogers.
Jonathan Allen and his wife, Ina Rogers.Solano County Sheriff’s Office via AP

Rogers told reporters this week that she chose to home-school her children after initially enrolling one of her sons and a daughter in a school and being concerned they weren’t getting enough attention. She also said that her daughter had been bullied. She did not name the school or comment on how she and Allen home-schooled their children.

In the Turpin case, the family registered with the state to home-school their children, which should have prompted a mandatory inspection by the local fire department. But that never took place. A spokesman for the city said the state failed to notify it that the Turpins were operating a school out of their home.

Image: David Turpin and Louise Turpin appear in court for their arraignment in Riverside
David Turpin, second right, and Louise Turpin, second left, appear in court for their arraignment in Riverside, California on Jan. 18.Frederic J. Brown / Pool via Reuters

Christopher Lubienski, a professor of education policy at Indiana University who has written about home schooling, said that while these cases were “obviously unusual and pretty sensational,” the lack of oversight nationally means that no one knows “how many kids are being not just physically neglected but also educationally underserved.”

A report from Connecticut’s Office of the Child Advocate in April found that 36 percent of home-schooled children lived in families that had been subject to at least one prior report of suspected abuse or neglect from the state’s Department of Children and Families. The report covered children withdrawn from six school districts from 2013 to 2016.

That report, which was prompted by the death of a home-schooled teenager who had been abused, also found that none of the six districts had protocols to follow up with such families.

“There is no real mechanism to check in on a child simply because they are removed from school to be home-schooled after a troubled past,” Coleman said.

In the case of the Harts, whose six children were adopted, authorities in Oregon, Washington and Minnesota all received reports of child welfare concerns before the deadly crash, according to NBC affiliate KGW.

Jennifer and Sarah Hart pose with their six adopted children in 2016. All six of the children and their parents were believed to be in a vehicle that plunged off a coastal cliff.
Jennifer and Sarah Hart pose with their six adopted children in 2016. All six of the children and their parents were believed to be in a vehicle that plunged off a coastal cliff.Tristan Fortsch / KATU News via AP

While living in Minnesota in 2011, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic assault charge in connection to one of her daughters, court records show. After that case was resolved, the Harts removed all six children from public schools, according to The Oregonian. The family reportedly did not register their children to be home-schooled in Oregon. Search crews have found six bodies after the crash, and two of the children remain missing and are feared dead.

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education advocates changes to home-schooling laws including requiring criminal background checks for parents, student contact with school or medical officials (who must report signs of abuse or neglect) and annual academic assessments. The coalition also calls for funding for government oversight of home schools.

After the Turpin case, lawmakers in California introduced legislationthis year that would have mandated more oversight of home schooling. But the bill died after parents who home-school turned out en masse to protest what they see as infringements on their rights.

The Home School Legal Defense Association, a national group that fights additional rules for home schooling, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In January, in response to the Turpin case, it said more regulations were not needed.

“We all agree that abuse is horrible and must never be tolerated,” the group said in a statement. “But imposing regulations that treat all home-schooling families like criminals is unjust.”

“Home schooling parents around the country have demonstrated a high degree of success in raising and nurturing their children — giving them the tools to grow and flourish,” the group added.

Lubienski, the education policy professor, agreed that home schooling was “not the culprit.” But he said the lack of regulations had “created a shield that allows this stuff to happen.”


Couple denies torturing their 10 kids in home filled with garbage and human feces


Police say they’ve found signs of abuse among 10 children living with their parents in a Fairfield, California home. The father has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of torture and felony child abuse. He is being held on $5.2 million bail. (May 15) AP

A Northern California dad is being held on more than $5 million bail and his wife vehemently denies claims of child abuse after police say they rescued the couple’s 10 children from a life of squalor and physical abuse.

Jonathan Allen, 29, on Monday pleaded not guilty to nine counts of felony torture and six counts of felony child abuse. His wife, Ina Rogers, 30, was charged with child neglect last month and is free on $10,000 bail, but authorities said she could face additional charges.

The case began six weeks ago, when Rogers called police to report that the couple’s oldest child was missing. The 12-year-old son was found and returned to the home, but police found nine more kids in a home they described as filthy.

“Officers located unsafe and unsanitary living conditions including garbage and spoiled food on the floor, animal and human feces and a large amount of debris making areas of the house unpassable,” Fairfield Police Lt. Greg Hurlbut said.

The children, as young as four months old, were taken into protective custody. A subsequent investigation revealed “a long and continuous history of severe physical and emotional abuse of the children,” police said. The abuse claims date back to 2014.

“The children described incidents of intentional abuse resulting in puncture wounds, burns, bruising and injuries consistent with being shot with a pellet gun or airsoft gun,” Hurlbut said.

Rogers was unrepentant. She said the children suffered bumps and bruises associated with being kids but no serious injuries. The house was a mess the day police returned their child because she had tossed everything around looking for her son, she said.

“My husband is an amazing person,” she said. “I am an amazing mother. I am not going to allow this to break us and I’m not going to stop fighting.”

Solano County prosecutor Sharon Henry said the children described “sadistic” treatment to professional counselors over the weeks they were away from their parents.

“I am horrified by the statements that were given by these children,” she said. “We have the children first and foremost in our minds. And as a parent, first and foremost in my heart.”

‘Starving California Children Taunted With Pie, Beaten by Parents’


Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin described what he said was a case of “human depravity.” The children were denied food, basic hygiene and medical care and were punished for perceived infractions such as washing their hands above the wrist.

Riverside: The 13 children imprisoned for years by their parents in their squalid California home were beaten, shackled, starved and even taunted with food that they were forbidden to eat, a prosecutor said on Thursday.

The victims, ages 2 to 29, were severely malnourished, suffering from muscle wasting and stunted growth. Several had cognitive impairment and nerve damage from extreme and prolonged physical abuse, the prosecutor said.

Each parent faces 94 years to life in prison if convicted on more than two dozen charges including torture, child abuse and false imprisonment in a case that has shocked the nation and prompted calls for greater supervision of home schooling.

The father, David Turpin, 57, is also accused of sexually abusing one of his young daughters. He and his wife, Louise, 49, sat without speaking, dressed in dark clothes during their initial court appearance on Thursday. The husband hunched over the defense table with his hands in his lap.

Defense attorneys entered not guilty pleas to all the charges.

At a news conference before the proceeding, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin described what he said was a case of “human depravity.” The children were denied food, basic hygiene and medical care and were punished for perceived infractions such as washing their hands above the wrist.

He said the victims were chained for weeks or even months at a time, not released even to use the bathroom. They were allowed to shower only once a year.

“The parents would apparently buy food for themselves and not allow the children to eat it,” he said. “They would buy food, including pies, apple pies, pumpkin pies, leave it on the counter, let the children look at it but not eat the food.”

As a result of malnourishment, the 12-year-old child was the weight of an average 7-year-old while the oldest, a 29-year-old woman, weighed just 82 pounds, he said.

The couple was arrested on Sunday in their home in Perris, California, about 70 miles (113 km) east of Los Angeles, after an emaciated teenage daughter climbed out a window and called police. A sibling who escaped with her got scared and turned back, Hestrin said.

“The 17-year-old victim that escaped had been working on a plan with the siblings to escape this abuse for more than two years,” he added.

The father registered the house, where the family lived since 2014, as the private Sandcastle Day School and listed himself as the principal. The children were the only students. Most states, including California, do not monitor or inspect such schools.

Hestrin suggested the children’s schooling was deficient, as many lacked basic knowledge about such things as police officers and medication.

Louise Anna Turpin, far left, with attorney Jeff Moore, second from left, and her husband David Allen Turpin, listen to attorney, David Macher, as they appear in court for their arraignment in Riverside (AP)


The victims told investigators the parents began tying them up years ago as a punishment, first with ropes, Hestrin said. After one escaped, “the defendants eventually began using chains and padlocks to chain up the victims to their beds,” he said.

Harsh physical punishment including beatings and strangulation was meted out for transgressions such as washing their hands above the wrists, which the parents considered playing with water, according to the prosecutor.

The children had not been to a doctor in at least four years and none has ever visited a dentist, Hestrin said.

“They were not allowed to have toys although there were many toys found in the house that were in their original package and had never been opened,” he said.

The abuse and neglect began when the family lived in the Fort Worth, Texas, area, with the parents at one point residing apart from most of their children and dropping off food from time to time, Hestrin said.

The family relocated to Murrieta, California, in 2010, and then moved again to nearby Perris in 2014, with the abuse and neglect intensifying after they arrived on the West Coast, Hestrin said.

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins said no report was made there of any misconduct involving the Turpins.

During Thursday’s brief court hearing, Judge Michael Donner ordered each defendant to remain held on $12 million bail and set the next court date for Feb. 23.

“A case like that sticks with you and haunts you,” Hestrin told reporters. “Sometimes in this business you are faced with human depravity, and that’s what we have here.”

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