Tag Archives: Dangerous Environment

In Harm’s Way – Part 1 Of 2

.jpg photo of two cousins that was abused with all children in the family
Jon’Nae Copprue, 18, was just 12 when cousin Tramelle Sturgis, 10, lost his life.

South Bend Child Abuse survivor remembers cousin’s death

** WARNING: Graphic MaterialTrigger Warning

SOUTH BEND, IN (WNDU)  –  Child abuse is a dark secret that seems to only come to light when a child is badly hurt, or worse, dies.

Federal figures showed a sharp rise in child abuse fatalities in the US with most of the increase happening in two states: Indiana and Texas.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, from 2015 to 2016, Indiana’s child abuse death toll more than doubled from 34 to 70.

There’s a lot of blame to go around, from the state’s opioid crisis to an overwhelmed child welfare system.

But ultimately, it’s what’s going on behind closed doors, the abuse and neglect that put children in harm’s way.

Around here, there’s one case that shook our community to its core: the death of 10-year-old Tramelle Sturgis.  It’s been nearly 7 years since his murder in a South Bend home.

“At least once a day I drive by this house, but I never stop,” said Detective Jim Taylor.  “This is the first time.”

Taylor may be a 20-year veteran officer with the South Bend Police Department, but what happened inside a house on West Washington still gets to him.

“It’s probably, if not the, worst case we’ve ever worked,” said Taylor.  “Just to stand in front of this house brings back so much horrific terror.”

Ten-year-old Tramelle Sturgis lost his life during a night of torture in the basement.

Tramelle and his older brother suffered countless blows and burns from their father, Terry Sturgis.

Their grandmother, Dellia Castile, was upstairs, and while she knew about the ongoing abuse, she didn’t stop it.

Both are in prison.

“He fought for so long.  Not just him, but his brothers and sisters.  The rest of those kids in that house,” said Taylor.

Eight other kids lived in that house.  They were siblings and cousins who faced a much different sentence as survivors of child abuse.

“Nobody knew what happened.  People might say they did, but nobody knew what happened but the ones that lived in the home,” said Jon’Nae Copprue.

Jon’Nae is one of the children who lived in the home.

“I felt like one of us was going to die.  I felt it and I always said it,” said Jon’Nae.

She was just 12 years old.

“I always felt like something was going to happen.  Somebody was going to get hit too hard and go to the hospital or one of us was going to end up dead.  I always felt like it was going to happen,” she said.

It did happen, to Tramelle.

“I’m not happy about him being dead, but I’m also like maybe this was our way of getting out.”

Jon’Nae is 18 now and lives in a foster home outside of the Michiana area. She’s pregnant with her third child and finishing up her GED.

“I’m slowly still trying to deal with it.  I can say I’m dealing with it better than I used to, because I got kids and they are amazing,” Jon’Nae said.

Jon’Nae and her siblings were being raised by their grandmother when the abuse took place.  Jon’Nae spoke exclusively with WNDU’s Tricia Sloma about what it was like to live in that home.

Jon’Nae says she was abused by her mother, her older sister and her cousin’s killer, her Uncle Terry.  He was the person she feared the most.

“He was always upset, he was always angry,” remembered Jon’Nae.  “Always ready to release his anger on somebody.”

“The way that the power of his arm when he was swinging, then whoopin’ us with poles and sticks and anything he could get his hands on.  You bound to break a bone or anything,” said Jon’Nae.

“(They) hit us with crowbars, extension cords, anything they could pretty much get their hands on,” explained Jon’Nae.

Terry made sure their injuries weren’t visible.

“We really didn’t wear dresses, shorts or anything like that because we had bruises,” said Jon’Nae.  “We would wear long thermals to cover scars up.”

Jon’Nae says she’s never had a best friend, and kids at school were mean.

“I would not want to be around other kids because I feel they would hate on me, see my scars, they would pick on me.  So I would be just like, alone,” said Jon’Nae.  “I felt like I was the only one, other than my brothers and my sisters.  I just felt like nobody, nobody cared.”

Months before Tramelle’s death, the Department of Child Services (DCS) was called to the home.  There was another time that police showed up.  But in every instance, authorities found nothing wrong.  The kids were instructed to lie.

“So it was like nobody cares.  After a while I think we just stopped caring.  It was just a normal thing to us.  It was just life,” said Jon’Nae.  “It was going to happen forever.  Probably until we moved out of the house.”

Or until, in Tramelle’s case, someone died.

“November 4, 2011.  The worst day of my life.  The day my cousin died.”

Jon’Nae was upstairs with her grandma that night.  She heard and witnessed things that will never leave her.

“You can still hear the screams.  I went downstairs and I seen a couple of things myself.  My cousins being tied up to poles, naked.  Just being tied up to poles, mouth was taped.   They was getting hit in the head.  Punched in the chest.  It was something I’d never seen before.  Worse than he ever did anything,” recounted Jon’Nae.  “That night?  I don’t think anybody could forget it.  And after that it just went downhill from there.”

After Tramelle’s murder, Jon’Nae and her siblings were separated from her cousins and put into foster care.  She admits to acting out and acting up.

“I can say for a while I was really aggressive.  My head was messed up.  After that I was really angry.  I just wanted to fight everybody.  Smoke.  Drink.  Do anything to hold the hurt in,” said Jon’Nae.  “I didn’t care about what anybody said.  I just wanted everything to end.”

Jon’Nae estimates she’s been in nine or ten foster homes, juvenile detention and residential care.

“Me and the foster parents got into it because we didn’t know each other.  It’s kind of scary going into different homes and different families because you don’t know anything about them, they don’t know anything about you they don’t know about your emotions.  They don’t know about your past,” explained Jon’Nae.

“I’ve been in so many schools.  I’ve never stayed in a school since I’ve been in the system.  Since I’ve been in foster care,  I’ve never stayed in a school more than six months,” said Jon’Nae.

Jon’Nae wishes her grandma never went to prison.

“My grandma, she never whooped us,” defended Jon’Nae.  “For people that think she’s more responsible.  She’s responsible in a way, but everything is not up to her.”

When Sloma pointed out that Castile was the only adult living in the home that could’ve stopped it, she replied,  “Yeah, but imagine you having fear. Imagine you having a lot of fear.  You don’t know what’s going to happen.  You have fear of him and you also have fear of losing your family.”

“If it was all up to her, it was all up to us too.  Because we stayed there.  We got mouths, we could’ve said something.  We was old enough to say something, but it’s the fear that got to us.”

It was the fear and trauma that fractured a family.

“I miss him every day,” said Jon’Nae.  “That’s one of my biggest scars, and the other scar is not having that family.”

Jon’Nae says she’ll never forget Tramelle and doesn’t want you to forget him either.  She would like to continue her education and someday work in the legal profession helping victims of child abuse.

If you would like to report child abuse, please contact authorities at the following numbers.

In Indiana, the child abuse and neglect hotline is 1-800-800-5556.

In Michigan, the number is 1-855-444-3911.

More Backpage Indictments Filtered Found On Research

.jpg photo of Backpage website Co-Founder
Jim Larkin, Backpage Website Co-Founder.

Three North Texans charged in Backpage
indictment

“I do not appreciate the media filtering my search engine results, most particularly when it involves Children being Abused or Trafficked, so here are the names of the 7 defendants charged:”

“The seven defendants charged in the indictment are Michael Lacey, 69, of Paradise Valley, Arizona; James Larkin, 68, of Paradise Valley, Arizona; Scott Spear, 67, of Scottsdale, Arizona; John E. “Jed” Brunst, 66, of Phoenix, Arizona; Daniel Hyer, 49, of Dallas, Texas; Andrew Padilla, 45, of Plano, Texas and Jaala Joye Vaught, 37, of Addison, Texas.”
~ Robert StrongBow ~

.jpg photo of Backpage website Co-Founder.
Michael Lacey, Backpage Co-Founder

“Website founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin are charged with facilitating prostitution and money laundering.”

April 9, 2018

PHOENIX, AZ  –  The founders of Backpage.com and five others at the classified site have been indicted on federal charges in what authorities say was a scheme to facilitate prostitution by running ads for sexual services and hiding their revenues.

An indictment unsealed Monday alleges that Backpage.com on some occasions had helped customers edit their ads so they would stay within legal limits while still encouraging commercial sex.

In one area, the indictment reads, “for several years, Backpage’s official policy, when presented with an ad featuring child prostitution, was to delete the particular words in the ad denoting the child’s age and then publish a revised version of the ad.”

It also says that Backpage claimed it does everything in its power to alert the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children whenever it becomes aware that a child is being advertised on the website.

But the indictment alleges that Backpage implemented policies to limit referrals to NCMEC.

The indictment says a top official emailed another saying, “If we don’t want to blow past 500 (referrals to NCMEC) this month, we shouldn’t be doing more than 16 a day.”

Other documents are referred to in the indictment saying a training document instructed website moderators not to send emergency alerts to NCMEC in response to complaints filed by the grandparents or other extended family being advertised on the website.

Website founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin are charged with facilitating prostitution and money laundering.

They are already facing state money laundering charges in California.

Larry Kazan, who represents Lacey, didn’t return a call seeking comment. There is no listing for Larkin’s attorney.

Seven defendants charged in the indictment include three people from North Texas, 49-year-old Daniel Hyer, of Dallas, 45-year-old Andrew Padilla, of Plano, and 37-year-old Jaala Joye Vaught, of Addison.

Authorities also have seized Backpage.com and its affiliated websites.

Julia Walsh, a sex trafficking survivor from the DFW area, says that she was sold for sex on Backpage for almost 3 years.

By age 19, she says men were paying as little as $40 for sexual encounters.
Walsh says she was trafficked from 2010 to 2014, and that her first trafficker was her boyfriend.

“They would post an ad about me, and we’d get over like 50 calls within an hour that’s just how many people are visiting the website,” Walsh said.

Walsh says she would have at least 200 sexual encounters with customers weekly.

“Probably about 210. Sometimes more and sometimes less. It depends what city we were in and what time of day it was,” Walsh said.

Now 26, Walsh says she was rescued during a police sting in 2014.

That was just two years before agents raided Backpage’s Dallas headquarters. On Monday, Attorney General Ken Paxton said that evidence was taken during the raid that was crucial to crafting the 93-count indictment.

At the time, CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested on pimping charges.  He isn’t charged in the indictment, but throughout the documents, a person with knowledge about the company is constantly referenced and is only identified with the initials “C.F.”

Tonya Stafford, a sex trafficking survivor who helps rescue women and children sold for sex online, applauded the website’s demise.

Stafford was sold for drugs when she was 13. From 1988 to 1997 she was held against her will.

Through her program “It’s Going to Be Ok, Inc.” she helps find new homes for sex trafficking victims.

She said she often visited Backpage for rescues.

“If a parent calls me or messages me saying their child is missing…I have to go through page after page,” Stafford said.  “That’s the hardest part.”

On June 23rd, Stafford will be hosting the 2nd Annual Stop The Traffick Walk near Bachman Lake.

Human Trafficking Awareness

.jpg photo of National Human Trafficking Hotline graphic
HELP IS AVAILABLE!

Latest trends in U.S. Child Sex Trafficking

Today we are excited to share our newest research.  Survivors have graciously allowed us to hear their stories, and in order for us all to be a part of the solution, we’re excited to share their stories with you.

Explore the Findings

Participants’ age of entry into the life

  • Youngest age of entry was less than 1-year-old
  • One in six were under the age of 12
  • Most frequently reported age is 15

Two themes in U.S. child sex trafficking emerged from this report:

  1. Technology is playing an increasing role in grooming and controlling victims of child sex trafficking.  75% of victims who entered the life in the past decade were advertised online.
  2. Less familiar forms of child trafficking, including those trafficked by family members or without a clear trafficker, are emerging.  80% of all victims under 10 were trafficked by a family member.

Without survivor input, our anti-trafficking movement risks wasting time and resources — and most importantly, endangering children.  We are truly grateful to all of the organizations and survivors that shared their stories and made this work possible.

Today is #HumanTraffickingAwarenessDay, and our research also showed that 2 out of 3 survivors never saw a help resource during their abuse.  You can change that by sharing the Human Trafficking hotline today everywhere you have a community on social media.

Spread The Word

“Survivor insights keep us grounded in the reality and complexity of their experience so that the best interventions can be developed to defend children from sexual abuse.”
Brooke Istook, Director of Strategy & Operations

Next Stop The Child Abuse Zone

.jpg photo of child abuse graphic
After 3 1/2 years, it made me angry that we were still being filtered, although as I looked at the seemingly unending list, depression grew within me, one tear at a time.
Acidic questions ate at my stomach, one word at a time….

As I looked at the Fox13 Salt Lake City website, I heard the show begin…

Sign Post Up Ahead,
Have You Made A Difference Today????

I can’t begin to tell you all what was going through my mind at that moment, all I can do is show you, as best I can, all the Child Abuse listed on that one web page.

The good part was, the Mom and Boyfriend from Sumpter Township, Michigan had been caught in Georgia.

Utah couple charged in death of 15-month-old girl
Posted 3:42 pm, October 2, 2017
WENDOVER, UT

Suspect in murder of 13-day-old baby appears in court
Posted 3:37 pm, October 26, 2017
SALT LAKE COUNTY, UT

Utah man arrested in Hawaii for 2015 murders of Orem mother and son
Posted 1:06 pm, October 30, 2017
OREM, UT

Couple arrested after 7 kids found in filthy home, 1 with maggots in diaper
Posted 5:36 pm, October 30, 2017
LEXINGTON, NC

West Jordan mother accused of killing 13-day-old son appears in court
Posted 8:44 am, November 3, 2017
WEST JORDAN, UT

Authorities think they have found body of missing 3-year-old NC girl; mom’s boyfriend arrested
Posted 3:01 pm, December 2, 2017
JACKSONVILLE, NC

Man coerced Utah teen into sending nude photos and videos, police say
Posted 2:52 pm, December 2, 2017
CACHE COUNTY, UT

Children rescued in Iron County Amber Alert were living in storage containers, hidden in barrels
Posted 3:46 pm, December 5, 2017
IRON COUNTY, UT

Davis County 19-year-old arrested for abusing, killing 7-week-old son
Posted 9:11 am, December 5, 2017
CLEARFIELD, UT

Teen pleads guilty to sexual assault and murder of 12-year-old girl
Posted 4:38 pm, December 11, 2017
SALT LAKE CITY, UT

Mother pleads guilty in 3-year-old son’s freezing death
Posted 4:11 pm, December 12, 2017
MORGANTON, NC

Mother found guilty of murder after 16-year-old daughter starves to death
Posted 11:05 am, December 15, 2017
DES MOINES, IA

Second teen pleads guilty in attempted aggravated murder of Cache Co. girl
Posted 3:55 pm, December 19, 2017
LOGAN, UT

Iron County couple charged with murder in 14-month-old girl’s death
Posted 2:09 pm, December 21, 2017
CEDAR CITY, UT

Utah man booked for child abuse after stepson arrives at hospital covered ‘head to toe’ with bruises
Posted 4:15 pm, December 23, 2017
EAGLE MOUNTAIN, UT

Police say Phoenix baby bent in half by father has died
Posted 3:30 pm, December 26, 2017
PHOENIX, AZ

4-year-old found alone in the cold in Ogden after mother dies
Posted 5:49 pm, December 28, 2017
OGDEN, UT

Police: Suspect threatened 4-year-old at gunpoint before murdering man in Taylorsville apartment
Posted 3:44 pm, December 29, 2017
TAYLORSVILLE, UT

Man admits to raping 8-year-old girl, feeding her meth
Posted 9:51 am, January 3, 2018
WASHINGTON, MO

Manhunt underway for mom, boyfriend in death of 4-year-old Michigan girl
Posted 4:10 pm, January 8, 2018
SUMPTER TOWNSHIP, MI

Family members arrested near Toeele after three-year-old child exposed to meth
Posted 3:36 pm, January 9, 2018
TOOELE, UT

Police say Utah County man arrested for sex abuse a ‘serial child sexual predator’
Posted 3:45 pm, January 13, 2018
UTAH COUNTY, UT

A dozen siblings found ‘starving,’ some chained inside California home after teen escapes
Posted 3:36 pm, January 15, 2018
PERRIS, CA

Utah mother speaks after teen babysitter charged with child abuse homicide
Posted 3:15 pm, January 17, 2018
WEST VALLEY CITY, UT

Its A Bird, A Plane – The Reason Is You

.jpg photo of frozen pond where child was saved by Law Enforcement
“I couldn’t feel anything. I didn’t notice anything when I was doing it… I had to get that child out of the water.”

Deputy who rescued boy from pond says
he was desperate, numb

A Utah sheriff’s deputy said Tuesday he was desperate and numb from the cold as he punched and stomped his way into a frozen pond on Christmas Day to pull out an 8-year-old boy who had fallen through the ice while chasing his dog.

With cuts on his forearms, Washington County sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Thompson said at a news conference that rescuers believe the child was in the 37-degree water for about 30 minutes until the deputy rescued him.

“I couldn’t feel anything.  I didn’t notice anything when I was doing it,” Thompson said.  “I knew that time was of the essence.  I had a very short window to get that child out of the water.”

Sheriff’s Lt. David Crouse said the boy was hospitalized in Salt Lake City but he didn’t have details on his condition.  Thompson said deputies were hopeful.

The boy fell through the ice in the town of New Harmony, north of St. George.

After arriving at the scene, Thompson, who had served on a search and rescue dive team, began searching an area where a woman reported seeing the boy’s hand flail about four minutes earlier.

The deputy stomped to break through the ice and work his way deeper, pounding with his hands and fists.

“As the ice got thicker, I couldn’t break it with my arms and my fists anymore, so I had to jump up on top of the ice, putting my weight on it, and then pound on it to get it to break,” he said.

When he went into the water, his toes brushed against reeds growing on the bottom of the pond and water reached his neck.
He swished his arms and legs around before finding the boy beneath the ice about 25 feet from the shoreline.

Thompson was treated for symptoms of hypothermia and released from a hospital Monday night.  He said he lost the feeling in some fingers but sensation had returned by Tuesday.

He expects to return to work by early next week.

The Spectrum of St. George reported that Sheriff Cory Pulsipher praised the deputy.

“He hates having the spotlight on him, but he’s a hero,” Pulsipher said.