JAILHOUSE INTERVIEW: Human Trafficking Suspect Speaks To KHQ - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

JAILHOUSE INTERVIEW: Human Trafficking Suspect Speaks To KHQ

SPOKANE, Wash. - One of the four people arrested for trafficking a local woman and suspected of selling her for sex, forcing her to take drugs and threatening her life told KHQ on Friday that the woman's story is "full of holes."

Lawrence Johnson, 43, is at the Spokane County jail on charges of first-degree kidnapping and human trafficking.

"I don't understand this, it's crazy. It really is," Johnson said

Johnson was arrested at his home on the 13,000 block of East Nora during a SWAT raid Wednesday, along with his wife, Dina Tellez, 43, and roommates Christopher Foster, 33, and Shanell Haddon, 28, in what is considered the first reported trafficking case in Spokane County.

The woman came forward to local law enforcement this week and said she was sold for sex, against her will, for more than a year. KHQ is not identifying the woman because she is the alleged victim of sexual abuse.

According to court documents, the alleged victim said she was sold for sex for a year in an operation that she said ran out of five methamphetamine houses, including Johnson's. She told investigators that the four suspects forced her to perform sexual acts and forced her to take drugs, mostly methamphetamine.

A search warrant shows methamphetamine paraphernalia was found inside his home.

The woman said the suspects, including Johnson, drove her to various motels and hotels in Spokane Valley, put her in a room, and told her what type of sex acts to perform. She said the arrangements were made through online ads such as Craigslist.com and Backpage.com.

The alleged victim added that she was often beaten up, burned, and intimidated with threats if she attempted to leave.

Johnson denies all of these allegations. He said he only met the alleged victim two months ago. He said she showed up at his door with her boyfriend Trevor Franklin.

"She's lying, she's lying. She spent the night twice at my house. I just met her two months ago," Johnson said. "She needed a place to stay for the night so I let her stay overnight at my house cause my roommate was a friend of hers."

Johnson believes he and his three roommates are taking the fall for the alleged victim's relationships, which said went south. One relationship being with her boyfriend, Franklin, and the other with her dad.

Franklin was also named in court documents as having been involved in the trafficking operation . Franklin was previously arrested on a assault charge for attacking the alleged victim; he pleaded guilty on April 23 on a charge of third-degree assault. Court documents state he assaulted the alleged victim in this case. He is now serving one year and a day in prison at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton.

A few days later, on May 1, records show the alleged victim was arrested for domestic violence. The arrest was the result of an argument with her father, according to both Johnson and the woman's former landlord.

Friday, the woman's father confirmed that he and his daughter had fought several times and that she blamed him for taking her two-year-old son away. The father said he called Child Protective Services (CPS) about two weeks ago to protect his grandson from a bad situation. The toddler is still with CPS.

Johnson believes the alleged victim's claims are retaliation for CPS taking her son.

"I imagine she's doing this...for her losing her kids, for some way for her to get back or losing her kids to CPS," Johnson said.

Johnson made his first court appearance Wednesday. The other three appeared in court Thursday afternoon on first-degree trafficking charges.

Detectives said the alleged victim's criminal history has no bearing on the investigation. They've also repeatedly said they have corroborated the woman's claims through property records and past police reports.

On Thursday, Spokane County Deputy Craig Chamberlin said, "Everything that our victim said was going to be in the residence, basically everything, was corroborated. So she's being very helpful with the investigation. This is a very unique, complicated investigation so there is a lot more work that has to be done within this investigation."

At this point, investigators are still tracking down witnesses and looking for other possible victims of human trafficking.

If you have any information about this case, call Crime Check at 509-456-2233

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