Former Texas Rangers pitcher John Wetteland appeared in a Denton County Court on Monday to respond to charges
DENTON, TX – A Denton County judge on Friday declared a mistrial in the child sexual assault case against John Wetteland, a former Texas Rangers player who is accused of molesting a boy three times more than a decade ago.
The jury told the judge three times that it was split. At one point, the judge said she heard loud arguing coming from the deliberation room.
Wetteland, who testified in his defense during the trial last week, faced three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. He played for the Rangers from 1997 to 2000, as well as for the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners, and is in the Rangers’ Hall of Fame.
At 4:40 p.m., the jury sent its third note to the judge. It said it was deadlocked and some jurors were “unwilling to budge.” The jurors asked how long they were expected to deliberate. Some were concerned about child care.
Judge Lee Ann Breading had pressed the jury to keep trying to reach a verdict. But after questioning the jury about 5 p.m., she declared a mistrial.
Wetteland, 56, faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted. It was unclear Friday whether prosecutors would pursue a second trial. Defense attorneys declined to comment.
Since Tuesday, jurors in 462nd District Court heard from the accuser, Wetteland and other witnesses.
According to authorities, Wetteland sexually assaulted the child three times between 2004 and 2006, starting when the child was 4 years old. Wetteland pleaded not guilty and said the accuser’s account of sexual abuse is a lie.
According to the accuser’s mother, he first told her in 2016 — when he was 16 — that Wetteland raped him as a child. She said she did not report the allegation to police. In his testimony, the accuser said he did not want to report the abuse and wanted an apology from Wetteland, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.
The accuser testified on Tuesday. He said he looked up to Wetteland and wanted to please him. The first time Wetteland sexually abused him, he said, he was confused. The abuse impacted him deeply into his teenage years, he testified, causing incontinence, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
When the boy was 18, his mother testified, she told him to write a letter about the abuse and planned to send it to people connected with Wetteland.
According to prosecutor Lindsey Sheguit, the document was saved on the Argygle school Google account, and the school district’s monitoring system flagged it. Employees discovered the letter, the school district’s chief technology officer testified Wednesday, and reported it to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
On cross examination from Derek Adame, one of Wetteland’s defense attorneys, the technology officer testified that the district could not know who wrote the letter, only that it was written on the accuser’s account. Adame and defense attorney Caroline Simone argue the abuse allegations are not true and were possibly fabricated by a man named Chris. Chris is not biologically related to the accuser but lived with him when the accuser was a teenager.
Police Arrest 4 In Connection With Abuse Of 2 Boys
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The start of school is around the corner for metro students. Oklahoma City police officials said on Wednesday with the start of school, officers would see an increase of reported child abuse cases.
One case currently under investigation started last December with a metro school counselor and resulted in the arrest of four adults this week. They were accused of child abuse and not reporting the abuse of two elementary age boys.
A concerned school counselor tipped off police to the alleged abuse. According to a report, a 6-year-old student returned from Thanksgiving break with injuries to his face and his 10-year-old brother did not return to class following the break.
“Both had some pretty substantial injuries that nobody could seem to explain,” said Msgt. Gary Knight, Oklahoma City Police Department.
Investigators found the family living at the Red Roof Inn near I-40 and south Meridian Avenue. Court documents indicated the boys’ mother Krista Cox claimed their injuries were self-inflicted during emotional outbursts. Police learned the brothers were diagnosed with autism and intellectual disabilities.
“It’s bad enough when you’ve got a child that’s unable to defend themselves,” said Knight. “Then you throw in its special needs child that has certain disabilities that makes it an even more egregious act.”
Police said there were two other adults living in the hotel rooms besides Cox and her boyfriend Christopher Aucoin.
“As the case evolved, it turned out there were two other people involved,” said Knight. “A parent of the mother of the child and a parent of the boyfriend.”
After combing through multiple Oklahoma Department of Human Services referrals and hospital records for the brothers, investigators determined the injuries were from abuse. They are holding all four adults criminally responsible.
“The children were placed into protective custody,” said Knight. “That’s important to note.”
DHS was contacted for the story to confirm the children were placed in state custody. An agency official said they could not comment on the case due to confidentiality laws.
46 dead after trailer carrying migrants found in San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO, TX – Forty-six people were found dead in and near a tractor-trailer and 16 others were taken to hospitals in a presumed migrant smuggling attempt into the United States, officials in San Antonio said.
It’s among the deadliest tragedies to have claimed thousands of lives of people attempting to cross the U.S. border from Mexico in recent decades. Ten migrants died in 2017 after being trapped inside a truck that was parked at a Walmart in San Antonio. In 2003, 19 migrants were found in a sweltering truck southeast of San Antonio.
South Texas has long been the busiest area for illegal border crossings. Migrants ride in vehicles though Border Patrol checkpoints to San Antonio, the closest major city, from which point they disperse across the United States.
A city worker at the scene on a remote back road in southwest San Antonio was alerted to the situation by a cry for help shortly before 6 p.m. Monday, Police Chief William McManus said. Officers arrived to find a body on the ground outside the trailer and a partially opened gate to the trailer, he said.
Hours later, body bags lay spread on the ground near the trailer as a grim symbol of the calamity. Bodies still remained inside.
Of the 16 taken to hospitals with heat-related illnesses, 12 were adults and four were children, said Fire Chief Charles Hood. The patients were hot to the touch and dehydrated, and no water was found in the trailer, he said.
“They were suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion,” Hood said. “It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer, but there was no visible working AC unit on that rig.”
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the 46 who died had “families who were likely trying to find a better life.”
“This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy,” Nirenberg said.
Those in the trailer were part of a presumed migrant smuggling attempt into the United States, and the investigation was being led by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, McManus said.
Three people were taken into custody, but it was unclear if they were absolutely connected with human trafficking, McManus said.
Big rigs emerged as a popular smuggling method in the early 1990s amid a surge in U.S. border enforcement in San Diego and El Paso, Texas, which were then the busiest corridors for illegal crossings.
Before that, people paid small fees to mom-and-pop operators to get them across a largely unguarded border. As crossing became exponentially more difficult after the 2001 terror attacks in the U.S., migrants were led through more perilous terrain and paid thousands of dollars more.
Heat poses a serious danger, particularly when temperatures can rise severely inside vehicles. Weather in the San Antonio area was mostly cloudy Monday, but temperatures approached 100 degrees.
Some advocates drew a link to the Biden administration’s border policies. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, wrote that he had been dreading such a tragedy for months.
“With the border shut as tightly as it is today for migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people have been pushed into more and more dangerous routes. Truck smuggling is a way up,” he wrote on Twitter.
Stephen Miller, a chief architect of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, said, “Human smugglers and traffickers are wicked and evil” and that the administration’s approach to border security rewards their actions.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican running for reelection, was blunt in a tweet about the Democratic president: “These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies.”
Migrants — largely from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have been expelled more than 2 million times under a pandemic-era rule in effect since March 2020 that denies them a chance to seek asylum but encourages repeat attempts because there are no legal consequences for getting caught. People from other countries, notably Cuba, Nicaragua and Colombia, are subject to Title 42 authority less frequently due to higher costs of sending them home, strained diplomatic relations and other considerations.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 557 deaths on the southwest border in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, more than double the 247 deaths reported in the previous year and the highest since it began keeping track in 1998. Most are related to heat exposure.
CBP has not published a death tally for this year but said that the Border Patrol performed 14,278 “search-and-rescue missions” in a seven-month period through May, exceeding the 12,833 missions performed during the previous 12-month period and up from 5,071 the year before.
Sexual Predator Sweep In Florida Results In 56 Arrests In ‘Operation Bad Apple’
OSCEOLA COUNTY, FL – The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that dozens of arrests have been made in “Operation Bad Apple.”
One such recent victory was won in Florida, where the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office worked with U.S. Marshals in “Operation Bad Apple” to round up and lock up a massive number of sexual predators, arresting 56 in the sweep.
The Sheriff’s Office said in a press release, “The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the United States Marshals conducted Operation Bad Apple, which took place from March 28, 2022 through June 10, 2022. The operation had a primary focus, but was not limited to; sexual offenders and sexual predators who have prior state or federal convictions for productions, transmission, and/or possession of child pornography/sexual performance of a child; transmission of harmful material to a minor; or video voyeurism.”
The press release concluded, “Operation Bad Apple resulted in 56 arrests of sexual offenders and predators in reference to violations of their statutory sex offense restrictions and or new law violations. All arrestees were booked and transported to the Osceola County Jail.”
So, we are thankful their office was able to lock up a number of creeps and deviants, particularly those involved in horrific sexual crimes or activity involving children.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to serving our community and increasing public safety. Anyone with information related to similar incidents, please contact the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office at (407) 348-2222.
Her mother sold her for drugs when she was 14. Now, she spends her life rescuing fellow trafficking victims
DALLAS, TX – It took Tonya Stafford years to return to Bradshaw Street in southern Dallas.
When she finally did, about eight years ago, she felt afraid.
“It was a lot of emotions that came back,” she said. “Because I thought of everything that had happened.”
Stafford lived in two separate houses on this street – although “lived” is a generous term.
She survived. That’s a better way to put it.
Located just feet apart, those Bradshaw Street houses are the first and second homes Stafford lived in with the man who purchased her from her mother when she was 14 years old. They’re the first two homes in which she was held captive, raped and abused for years.
“I was sold from the projects… the Turner Courts Projects,” Stafford said.
She’d been living their with her siblings, her mother and her mother’s husband. Stafford’s mother had been in an out of their lives, while living with addiction. She regained custody of Stafford and her siblings when Stafford was eight years old. Up until then, they’d been living with their grandmother.
“It wasn’t something that was hidden from us,” Stafford said of her mother’s troubles. “Big Momma always just told us to respect her. If we saw her walking down the street in South Dallas, we respected our mom.”
Stafford said her mother had started to do better when she regained custody, but the man she married was an addict and abusive.
“He immediately started raping us and molesting us,” Stafford said. “So, that’s how our life took a turn for the worse.”
When Stafford and her siblings told her mother about the abuse, she said her mother’s husband claimed the children were trying to break them up. She believed him.
Stafford said the family was also homeless for months at a time and bounced from hotel to hotel.
“He would get a room for them and a room for us,” Stafford said. “Then he would get a room to take us into.”
Even then, Stafford still had hope.
“I wasn’t pregnant,” she said. “I was an A student. I was really smart. My mentality was to make it out and never come back.”
Eventually, her family ended up at the Turner Courts housing project in southern Dallas, where Stafford said she and her siblings were allowed to freely come and go as they pleased, as long as they were home by dark.
She said she remembered she’d hang out with a neighbor, a women in her early 20s who was married and had kids. Around that time, Stafford also remembered, she started noticing the man who’d become her abuser hanging around the neighborhood.
“I remember seeing him but not really paying attention cause I was playing with [my neighbor’s’] kids,” Stafford said. “I didn’t know he had already started inquiring about us. Who was I? ‘Who’s her momma? What does that look like?’ They told him, ‘Her mom’s on drugs, and they don’t really care about them.’ He found his prey. I was his prey.”
One night, when she was 13, Stafford said she was at her neighbor’s house, drinking what she thought was soda. The man was there too. Once she’d had a bit of what she later realized were wine coolers, she said she didn’t feel good. She remembered the man telling her she couldn’t go home drunk.
She said he raped her that night.
“I got up, I put my clothes on, I went back to our apartment,” Stafford said. “I didn’t say anything.”
A few weeks later, Stafford started feeling sick – and quickly realized she was pregnant.
“My daughter was born in 1988 in Mesquite Community Hospital,” she said.
Stafford was 14. The father of her new baby was more than 10 years older.
Court documents provided to WFAA showed that Tonya was interviewed by a case worker who was investigating her mother and stepfather for child abuse involving another sibling. The report detailed that Tonya was pregnant and that the father of her child was substantially older than she was. The case worker noted that she asked Tonya if her mother had anything to do with what she referred to as her “relationship” with an older man, but never probed into any questions about abuse or the situation being troublesome.
“I knew then that we weren’t going to be saved,” Stafford said.
A few months after her daughter was born, Stafford said she was playing outside with other kids and had come back in to her house for some water when she noticed her belongings and her baby’s things had been packed up and placed by the door.
“She [her mother] said, ‘You got to go,'” Stafford said. “I asked why: ‘Did I do something wrong? Did I not clean up good enough? What did I do?’ She just said again, ‘You got to go.’ She pointed outside, and I saw his car waiting. So, I took a deep breath, and I got in the car.”
Stafford said she went to live with with her abuser in his grandmother’s house – one of the homes on Bradshaw Street – where she was repeatedly raped and beaten. After a year, she said they moved a few houses down on the same street. A couple of years later, they moved to Pleasant Grove.
Stafford said she’d continuously tried calling her mother during this time, but never got an answer. Eventually, she learned that her mother had changed phone numbers. While she lived on Bradshaw Street, Stafford was just a few blocks from her family and the school she would have attended had she been able to leave the house.
“I really only left to go to church,” Stafford said.
She said her abuser took her to church every Sunday and Wednesday.
“I remember telling someone he was raping me, and they told me not to say that,” Stafford said. “The first lady told me I should be glad someone bought me.”
Stafford said she lived with her abuser for 10 years. During that stretch, she gave birth to two more children of his children. She said no one at any of the hospitals ever questioned their situation.
“I don’t think they wanted to get involved,” Stafford said.
She was 24 when her life changed. She has her neighbor to thank for that.
“She was the nosey neighbor,” Stafford said. “She’d seen something. She said something. And she did something.”
Stafford said her neighbor had noticed abuse in the home, and had spoken to her about it. “Our cue was, if it gets bad, throw something out the window – or just come out and she’ll call the police,” Stafford said.
On the day she was rescued, Stafford said the abuse was particularly bad.
“He was angry,” Stafford said of her abuser. “He was angry. He just kept saying, I’m going to kill you.'”
Stafford said she’d gone to the bathroom, flushed the toilet and threw some things out of the window. She said she tried to climb out of the window, too, but her abuser heard her, kicked down to the door, pulled her back into the house and threw her into the hallway. “I asked him if I could go put my kids up, and I could come back and he could kill me,” Stafford said. “He said no, and he started choking me unconscious. And that’s all I remembered. I woke up. My neighbor was kneeling next to me, and she was crying.”
Stafford said her neighbor heard the commotion and called the police. By the time officers arrived, her abuser had run away. Stafford and her children were taken to a shelter for domestic violence survivors in Irving.
“I got to be safe, and then I started therapy,” Stafford said. “I love therapy.”
She still goes to therapy every Tuesday.
“It’s the first time I couldn’t lie,” Stafford said. “I had to be honest about everything. My kids got therapy too. I think that’s ultimately what saved me. I had never just been around a bunch of women.”
These women affirmed Stafford’s beauty, value and purpose.
When she finally was able to take her attacker to court, Stafford said the judge apologized to her for a healthcare system and an education system that “failed” her.
“Then he said, “And I’m sorry, I have to fail you too,'” Stafford said. “The statute of limitations had been reached.”
She was able to get a protection order – one that’s still in place – because of the domestic violence, but her attacker was never charged for the sexual abuse. In fact, he was granted visitation with her children.
Stafford’s story is a hard one to hear, but it laid the foundation for the life-saving work she does now.
In 2014, Stafford started It’s Going to Be Okay Inc, an organization that helps rescue, house and heal survivors of human trafficking. She now operates four safe houses for survivors across Dallas-Fort Worth.
“We’re providing direct services to human trafficking victims of all races and colors, but particularly Black girls,” Stafford said.
These are girls, Stafford said, that often go missing without extensive media coverage or resources devoted to finding them.
They’re girls like her.
Her story, Stafford said, is not entirely the same as the cases she deals with now. But the foundations of trauma and abuse are the same.
“When you’re dealing with past trauma, it effects your post-trauma,” Stafford said. “It’s how [these girls] are so susceptible to trafficking. It’s the cycle of trauma, the generational trauma.”
Stafford’s work has been recognized around the country. She works with local, state and federal law enforcement to help rescue trafficking victims and offer services to help them rebuild their lives.
She was recently recognized by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for her efforts, and even received an honorary doctorate for her work.
“When I come across girls who look like me – the forgotten girls – and they say, ‘Ms. Tonya, thank you for coming, and thank you for providing what probably wouldn’t have been provided,’ that is my why,” Stafford said.
So, now, when Stafford finds herself on Bradshaw Street, she sees survival.
“I survived for them,” she said. “I survived for me. I survived for my children. And not only am I surviving, I’m thriving.”