Saturday, 8 February 2014

Yorba Linda slaying: Final days of stabbing victim puzzle family

(not my work, click title for a link to original article at OC Register)

YORBA LINDA – This was not the way the life of Aubreyanna Sade Parks was supposed to end.
The 17-year-old found stabbed to death in Yorba Linda this week was set to start college at Northern Arizona University in the fall.
A former cheerleader at Peary Middle School in Gardena with a love for softball, Parks was taking college-prep classes at Middle College High School in Los Angeles and, according to her godmother, aspired to be a lawyer.
But Tuesday morning, authorities found Parks more than 30 miles away from home, lying partially on a grassy curb of a Yorba Linda street lined with multimillion-dollar homes.
Fully clothed and without ID, she had been stabbed multiple times in the upper torso.
A suspect, Larry Soo Shin, 35, is being held without bail in county jail on suspicion of murder while lying in wait. Thursday, a judge carried over his arraignment to Feb. 28.
The portrait beginning to emerge of a girl taking steps toward higher education clashes sharply with the life Parks apparently was living in the days leading up to her death.
A week before the early-morning attack, she had been reported missing.
And Thursday, law enforcement officials said she had been taken into custody in Santa Ana on Jan. 24 during a prostitution sting.
While details of what led to the fatal confrontation that has shaken a Yorba Linda neighborhood remain unclear, loved ones of Parks said they were trying to piece together the teenager's last days – and square their image of her with her recent run-in with Santa Ana police.
“My baby wasn't a prostitute,” Mantonette McKinney, Park's mother, said. “It's not what we instilled in her.”
Parks and two women were taken into custody by members of the Santa Ana police vice unit during a regular crackdown, Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.
Parks, Bertagna said, was detained while walking in the area of Harbor Boulevard. She was not arrested or charged with prostitution. Following an investigation, police arrested Marsalis Joseph Smith, 26, from the Los Angeles area, on suspicion of human trafficking.
Because Parks is a minor, she was taken to a shelter in Orange County after being detained Jan. 24. Sometime between Jan. 24 and Jan. 28, however, she walked out of the shelter, law enforcement officials said.
McKinney said she had been in contact with her daughter after Santa Ana police detained her, but said the teenager was afraid to come home.
“There's something that occurred that she was afraid to tell us,” McKinney said in an interview.
The circumstances of Parks' death may touch on a recent debate in Orange County about how minors suspected of prostitution should be treated by the criminal justice process. Are they victims of abuse or juvenile delinquents, and should they be locked up for their own protection?
Minors involved in prostitution are often runaways, and walk-outs from shelters are routine. Officials worry simply releasing them puts them back on the streets or in the hands of pimps.
And the other option, locking them up at Juvenile Hall, doesn't seem to fit a growing view of prostitutes as victims of abuse who require counseling.
In recent years, a commission organized by Orange County's Juvenile Court has discussed a locked facility staffed by trained counselors to keep minors off the street while still treating them like victims.
Meanwhile, McKinney and other loved ones are consumed with trying to understand what led to her daughter's death.
“She was a normal 17-year-old,” said Georgia Smith, Parks' godmother. “She's a baby. There's really nothing else I can say. She was a child growing into a woman. That's what she was.”
“Aubrey,” as she was known to loved ones and friends, would have been the first in her family to attend college. “Her major goal in life was to excel and be better, every single day,” Smith said.
According to prosecutors, Shin had been communicating with Parks, asking her to meet him in Yorba Linda.
“After (Parks) arrived, Shin is accused of stabbing and murdering her and leaving her body on a greenbelt,” a statement from the District Attorney's Office read.
On Thursday, officials with the Sheriff's Department declined to release details of what led to the stabbing on Mirkwood Run and Live Oak Lane.
Neither Parks nor Shin lived in the area, officials said. How she first came into contact with Shin also was unclear.
Asked whether Shin and Parks had any prior contact before that day, Lt. Jeff Hallock of the Orange County Sheriff's Department said that, too, was under investigation.
According to public records, Shin is a resident of Yorba Linda but lived with his mother in a townhome more than a mile away from where the attack occurred.
Smith declined to speak in detail about why Parks may have been in Yorba Linda. She said only that Parks had been “trying to come home” in recent weeks and had been calling her mother.
“My friend's not supposed to bury her child,” she said.
Staff writers Keegan Kyle, Amy Wilson, Claudia Koerner, Eric Hartley and Scott Schwebke contributed to this report.

Yorba Linda slaying: Sex-trafficking gangs infiltrate county

(not my work, posted directly from OC Register, click on the title for original link)

Published: Feb. 7, 2014 Updated: Feb. 8, 2014 12:04 p.m.

With its high incomes and millions of visitors, Orange County has become a major stop on a sex-trafficking circuit that runs through the urban West and appears to have snared a teenage girl killed in Yorba Linda this week.
Criminal street gangs are playing a growing role in the human-trafficking industry, drawn by the promise of easy money without the risks that come with dealing drugs or weapons, according to law enforcement officials. The victims in Orange County alone easily number in the hundreds, many of them teenage girls brought in from nearby counties.
Police believe Aubreyanna Sade Parks, 17, was one such victim. She spent the last weeks of her life terrorized by a convicted felon who had her beaten, threatened her family and forced her onto the streets to sell sex, court records allege.
“She is terrified,” wrote a detective who interviewed her days before she was found stabbed to death on a Yorba Linda street. The man she identified as her pimp “has knowledge of where her family resides and (she) believes that he will retaliate by ‘killing someone' in her family.”
Her case sheds light on a human-trafficking industry that thrives in the shadows of Orange County. Police and others who work with victims say the county lies on a trafficking circuit that reaches south to San Diego, east to Las Vegas and north to the Bay Area and beyond.
Traffickers spirit their victims from city to city, advertising them as “new in town,” preventing them from getting their bearings. They look for large and diverse population centers with access to major highways, according to a 2012 report on human trafficking in California.
Most of the cases here still involve pimps working alone and controlling small groups of women, police say. But organized gangs are getting into the trafficking business, where they can keep selling the same victim, night after night.
At least half of the suspects charged in Orange County trafficking cases in the past two months have “significant gang ties,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff of the District Attorney's Office.
A sex trafficker controlling four women, each forced to meet a typical quota of $500 a night, could make more than $600,000 a year, according to an anti-trafficking group called the Polaris Project.
“Wherever there's headlights, there's money,” said a former prostitute who gave her name only as Hope, citing concerns about her safety. She said she used to work in Gardena, not far from where Aubreyanna grew up, but didn't know her.
Pimps often target younger girls, sending them away from their neighborhoods to disconnect them from family and friends, Hope said. That's why girls from Los Angeles County often turn up in Orange County, northern California, Las Vegas.
Some fall under the spell of sweet-talking “Romeo pimps” and trust them as their boyfriends, said Lita Mercado, a program director at Orange County's Community Service Programs, which helps victims. Others are battered under the control of so-called “gorilla pimps” and fear for their safety if they try to escape.
“They're psychologically handcuffed,” said Anaheim police Lt. Steve Davis, who heads the city's vice unit and is a member of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force. “It's almost like this cult following where they get in the car and come down here.”
The task force identified 213 victims of human trafficking in Orange County in 2012, a snapshot of an ever-changing problem. Three-quarters of them were being trafficked for sex. Almost all were female, and more than a quarter said they started as minors. Most were U.S. citizens.
“No child grows up hoping that they will one day be sold for sex,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in April 2013 as he announced a special unit to prosecute human traffickers. The unit has since sent 17 traffickers to prison, put 10 others on probation and has 49 open cases.
"These victims are not throwaways,” Rackauckas said.
• •
Aubreyanna Sade Parks wanted to be an attorney. She had recently been accepted at Northern Arizona University and would have been the first in her family to attend college. Friends and family knew her as Aubrey – “a playful, fun-loving, joyful, happy child,” her godmother, Georgia Smith, said.
Police stopped her early on the morning of Jan. 24, after she solicited an undercover officer during a vice sting on Harbor Boulevard, according to court papers. She told a detective that a man named Marsalis Smith had forced her to work as a street walker and post prostitution ads online, the court papers say.
Smith's criminal record in Los Angeles includes convictions for battery, resisting arrest and assault with a deadly weapon, records show. He served five months in prison in 2012 for possessing a firearm as a felon.
Aubreyanna told the detective that Smith's friends once beat her as he watched and that he forced her to sleep naked – a pimp's precaution to keep her from escaping, according to court records. She said he collected any money she made for gas, food, clothing – even a $180 stereo for his car.
Smith was arrested and has pleaded not guilty to trafficking a minor by force, pimping and pandering. He has been held since late January in Orange County Jail.
Aubreyanna was not arrested or charged with prostitution; instead, she was taken to a shelter in Orange County. She walked out within a few days and made her way back to Gardena, not far from her family's home.
She was walking the street in tight clothes and corduroy slippers when Rev. Cavalain Hawkins spotted her. He invited her to get some food at a nearby Chili's, then took her to get new clothes that, he said, would be more fitting for church. At one point, he said, she shrank from a man she said was a member of the gang that had pimped her.
Hawkins said he was going to take Aubreyanna to a shelter, but she parted ways with him. All she had was a pocket book, he said.
A few days later, on Tuesday morning, two bicyclists taking an early ride through a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes found Aubreyanna's body lying on a curb. She was fully clothed but had no identification, and had been stabbed multiple times in the upper body.
Police arrested Larry Soo Shin in connection with her murder. Shin, 35, lived with his mother in a townhouse more than a mile away. Prosecutors say he had been communicating with Aubreyanna and had asked her to meet him in Yorba Linda.
“It breaks my heart,” Hawkins said. “She's a child. She hasn't even breathed yet, and her life is over.”
Staff writer Scott Schwebke contributed to this report.