Oklahoma City authorities have charged eight suspects with various counts in connection with a 15-year old girl who went missing from a Mavericks game in April. The girl has since been found.
Thalia Gibson has been charged with offering to engage in prostitution. Kenneth Nelson, Sarah Heyes, and Karen Gonzales have all been charged with human trafficking and distribution of child pornography. Saniya Alexander and Gibson both have outstanding felony warrants. And a woman by the name of Melissa Wheeler has a robbery warrant.
At a Mavericks game in the beginning of April, a 15-year-old girl left her father to use the restroom and never returned to her seat. Concerned, her father alerted authorities at the stadium in Dallas, Texas. By the time the game ended, the girl still had not been found.
The father was instructed to return home. After issuing pleas and concerned notices to the Dallas Police Department, the department refused to open an investigation into the matter. For eleven days, the girl’s family was left in the dark.
According to Texas law, missing children are assumed to have run away from home under the state’s Family Code 51.03 b. 3. Unless there are "circumstances which appear as involuntary such as a kidnapping or abduction," the state investigates the matter as a runaway.
Eleven days later on April 18th, authorities recovered the missing girl at an Extended Stay Hotel in Oklahoma City.
In a statement released on May 5th, the girl’s mother expressed gratitude for Oklahoma’s law enforcement’s efforts to recover her daughter.
"We are thankful for the work of the Oklahoma City Police Department and the recovery of our daughter. My heart breaks for the unimaginable things my daughter had to endure for the 11 days she was taken, and I am so glad she is safe as we work toward her recovery," she said.
The family is now demanding answers for why the state of Texas and the city of Dallas did not assist in the missing person case, even after an alarm had been communicated by members of the victim’s family. They are also inquiring about the lack of safety procedures at the Dallas stadium.
The family’s legal representation, attorney Zeke Fortenberry says the existing structures designed to protect citizens and uphold the law had failed at every level in this case.
"The systems and organizations involved in this case continually failed the victim," Fortenberry said. "She should never have had contact with the man at the Mavericks game. The Dallas Police should have worked quickly to investigate leads and locate the teenager before she was trafficked to Oklahoma."