Updated: Jul 31, 2022
Marcy: Welcome to Crime Raven, real life stories from law enforcement crimes and issues, crime fighters face. This podcast discusses crimes researched using publicly available information or personal recollections. Content may be graphic disturbing or violent, and maybe upsetting to some. Listener discretion is advised.
Suspects are considered innocent until found guilty in a court of law.
Marcy: One of the places that you can listen to Crime Raven is on Audible. With an Audible membership, you can access podcasts, audiobooks, and original content. I mainly use Audible when I'm driving. When do you listen, Mark?
Mark: I listened when I'm working on my farm.
Marcy: What do you listen to on Audible right now?
Mark: I'm switching between Barry Eisler's John Rain spy series, and Greg Hurwitz' Orphan X thriller series. And I love them both.
Marcy: To support Crime Raven, Audible is allowing our listeners to try it for free for 30 days if you visit audibletrial.com/crimeraven. That's free access for 30 days at audibletrial.com/crimeraven. We'll also put the link in the show notes.
Mark: I wanted to let you know, as with the episode, Preying in Anchorage, this episode contains more of Mary's story. Mary is a representative of several victims, but the stories are real. I chose them, not because they're unique, but because they're shockingly common. When we get into the investigation, those are the real names and real people.
Marcy: Trigger warning. This episode references sexual abuse and exploitation, including that of minors.
A minivan drive slowly towards Mary as she walks on the narrow shoulder of the roadway. The stroll she's on runs through one of the older neighborhoods, characterized by medium sized lots, holding tiny dilapidated houses. Most of the yards that she passes are unkept chaos of overgrown grass and bushes. The streetlights that are functional, provide a patchwork of visibility along the otherwise dimly lit street. It's a chilly fall night, snow still a couple of weeks away, and Mary sees wisps of her breath.
Mr. Minivan's driver's side window is down as he slowly approaches. Mary can only see a shadow of the man's face, but he is looking at her. She imagines his eyes through the shadow and tries to hold the gaze, the universal signal that she isn't just out for a walk.
Mr. Minivan stops and says, " you need a ride, honey?" Mary moves around the back of the van, tries to remember the plate and opens the front passenger door. The dome light illuminates a 45 year old white dude with short, dark hair, a little overweight, but otherwise clean looking. Mary's always thankful for clean. In that instant, she decides he doesn't look like a serial killer. So she steps in and closes the door behind her. Mr. Minivan pulls away, continuing down the road. "How much?" he asks.
Mary's head swivels looking up and down the street. "Are you a cop?"
Mr. Minivan chuckles. "No. How come they always ask that?"
Mary replies, "because cops have to say." After a pause," it's a hundred for a blow job. 200 for more."
Mr. Minivan says, "I'll do you for 200."
"You have a rubber? I won't do it without".
"Yeah," he grunts. As they talk, Mary pays attention to where Mr. Minivan's taking her. She thinks, 'this guy knows what's up. I usually have to take them to a spot.' Couple of minutes later, he pulls into the darkness along the side of a warehouse. The building is surrounded by dense brush, creating a secluded feeling, even in the crowded neighborhood.
Mr. Minivan wastes no time after putting it in park, easing his seat back a little and unbuckling his belt. "Imma going to call you Jean", as he simultaneously tries to grab her head and pull his dick out of his pants.
Mary jerks her head away, leans back and says, "Whoa, I need the money up front."
Mary says, "No. Now."
Mr. Minivan suddenly sits up right and turning, he hits her across the face with his left palm. Mary sees stars and feels his hands grip around her neck. He snarles, almost barking, the words at her. " I don't give a shit what you want, Jean." His hands tightened and Mary chokes. She gasps, trying to suck in air. The reprieve from the throat pressure comes only when the man lets one hand go to punch Mary in the face. It's all in slow motion now. Mr. Minivan speaks in threats promising what he's going to do to Jean. Mary's head swims from the force of the blows. Then Mary does something she's prepared for, but never really thought she'd have to do.
She reaches down to the knife, clipped in the inside of a right boot. 1, 2, 3 times she stabs him. Twice in the chest and as he grabs the knife, once in the face. Mary's sure that the three inch blade went all the way in on our first stab. The third cut. The one in Mr. Minivan's face makes him recoil. She uses that instant to back out of the door and run. She finds herself plowing through the dark brush, through the sound of branches snapping as they hit her. She hears the door open. Mr. Minivan bellows, "Bitch. You fucking cut me!" Bitch. I'll kill you."
Mary's adrenaline carries her through the woods, barely aware that she's bashing and ricocheting off trees. She half runs, half falls down a rocky embankment and collapses flat against the slope. Mary hears Mr. Minivan walking around in the bushes above her. He's panting and starting to moan softly. After a few minutes, the sound of movement through the brush subsides and Mary hears the minivan start-up.
Mary stays on the ground. Her face hurts. Her throat burns. She realizes her nose is bleeding. It's very dark, so she can't tell if the blood is just on her face or all over. She thinks about how she got here. She shouldn't be working the street. This is Amber's fault. She should have a cell phone. That's Ambers fault too, she thinks. Well, Amber and Jerry.
Mary ponders about how it is that she's lying in this dirty dark, hurting and bleeding. She is 18 years old. When she was 14, she became involved in what she knows now is the game. The players are the pimps and the whores. A group of hoes working under a pimp is called a family. Her family, like all of them has a hierarchy. The daddy is the boss. And in her family, the daddy is Jerry Starr.
There's a bottom bitch or Jerry's right-hand girl who helps control the other girls. Well, why the top girl is called the bottom bitch has always been a mystery to Mary, but they always say it's because she's the most down with the pimp. In Mary's family, the bottom bitch is, Amber. Amber is 20 and they say she's been with Jerry since she was 12.
When she went to Millionaire Joe's house four years ago, Mary didn't know that it was the first step to her joining the game. For a while, Mary was allowed to stay at one of Jerry's houses without having to go to work every night. She was reserved for the rich guys like Millionaire Joe who dealt with Jerry or Al directly. Millionaire Joe's house was good because there was never a shortage of drugs. Joe liked his Coke. And for a while, Joe liked Mary. Over time, Mary noticed that Bambi was swapping her out for even younger girls. After that, Jerry allowed her to stay at one of his houses, but she was pressured to work for the escort service.
With these memories swirling in her mind, Mary stands up. Her night vision was good enough to distinguish a different surface about 20 yards away, where the woods were cleared back. Walking to it, Mary sees that it is the gravel berm of railroad tracks. She walks out of the woods and up onto the tracks. She is relieved to see lights twinkling through the trees and several hundred yards up the tracks, the glow of a familiar intersection. Sensing no one else on the tracks in either direction. Mary begins to walk towards the light.
Mary continues to take stock. She reaches up to feel her face. She probably has a black eye, a front tooth feels loose on the left side. Her throat is on fire. Over the last few years, she's learned to ignore pain of all kinds. She thought, I've been in pain since my dad died. This whole shitty life is pain. Mary had learned so much about life from pain. The pain of losing her family; being betrayed by her mother; the pain of beatings from Jerry, or sometimes a fucked up trick. There was also the pain of learning about human nature. Mainly, male human nature. Most tricks just wanted to get off, but some had freak fantasies they wanted to try and they all think they're the first to have that idea. "No, I won't let you put your entire fist at my ass." "No, I won't watch child pornography with you or suck my thumb and call you daddy." Between Jerry and those lost motherfuckers, men could all go to hell. The only bright spot in this giant pile of shit was the gram she earned for every trick. The rock went straight into the pipe and you could almost forget about the whole thing.
After Bambi, Joe and that whole group went down, everybody was careful for awhile. Mary and the other girls were schooled about what to say if the police tried to talk to them. The specter of the torso girls hung like a hammer over them. Nobody was openly saying Jerry did 'em, but they were both his girls and they'd both been around long enough to see some shit. When the old bitches whispered about Deseret and Michelle, it was that they'd seen too much. They knew too much. There was a rumor that one of them was trying to blackmail one of the rich guys. Mary knew that you never relied on what bitches said. It was all part of the game.
Mary thought about the time recently, when she got popped by the police. It was a sting in a hotel. She hadn't told them jack. In fact, she flipped them shit about the cop who got fired for groping one of Jerry's girls, when he gave her a ride. The detective she talked to, Barbosa, he was cute, kind of a David Duchovny vibe. He was nice and he promised to get her out of the game, but Mary blew him off. They weren't going to help her do shit. The cops held Mary until T, Jerry's go-to guy, arrived to check up on her. They arrested him too. T usually did his Ving Rhames enforcer act when he had to come out. With the cops, he was quiet.
Thinking about T brings Mary back to the current moment. She wishes she had her phone. T could find Mr. Minivan. And if he wasn't already dead, Mary fantasize about T finishing the job.
She stepps slowly, carefully placing her feet. The last thing she needs is to twist an ankle on the uneven tracks. She'd never make it out of here. The intersection lights were still distant and foot placement in the dark was tricky. Why didn't she have her damn phone?
Oh yeah. That's ambers fault. Mary knows that the problem is that Amber is a jealous bitch. Amber has made Mary's life hell ever since the Lakeshore Motor Lodge. About six months prior, Mary was sent out on a date at the Lakeshore. When she got there, a white guy in his forties, let her in. The guy, told her his name was Bill. Mary could see that Bill had been drinking - a lot. He told Mary that she was pretty and tried to rub her shoulders. She backed away from him and she went through the procedure. "Bill, are you a cop?"
Bill said, "what? No."
Mary said, "because if you're a cop, you have to tell me."
Bill said, "no, not a cop."
Mary said," the fee for time and company is 200. And if you want certain special favors, it's a hundred dollars more each."
Bill said, "I just want to fuck you."
Mary said,"400 and I'll make it worth it."
Bill nodded. With a level gaze, Mary held out her palm. "You have to pay before."
Mary watched as Bill went to a shoulder bag, hanging above a suitcase. He counted out a few bills and gave them to Mary. She started towards the bathroom. "I have to call it in and let my people know."
Bill looked confused, "wait, are you a cop?"
Mary laughed, "no, but if I don't check in some big angry black dude's going to show up, looking for me and neither of us want that." In the bathroom, Mary sat on the edge of the tub, sighed, and dialed the number. When a voice on the other end answered, she said "Lakeshore 205. It's 400." And she hung up.
There was nothing unusual about the sex. Mary, like always tried to get it over quickly, taking her cues from the guy. With Bill, he seemed like he wanted to talk. One of the things he said caught her attention. He asked her if she liked Coke. She said she did. And he said he was there because he was picking up some Coke from the airport. He said he wished he had some, so he could suck some lines off her ass. Mary played along, but her attention was drawn back to that satchel.
When Mary left, she called Jerry and told him about the date and the bag. He told Mary to wait in the parking lot behind the hotel. 10 minutes later, Jerry pulled up in his Caddy and T with him. Mary described the date again to Jerry and T. T asked her more details about the room. Jerry asked if she knew what the guy was driving, but she didn't.
T got out and went into the building. A couple of minutes later, Jerry answered his cell and spoke to T. Jerry hung up and immediately made another call. Mary heard Jerry say "Yes. I'm trying to reach room 2 0 5."
After a pause, Jerry said "Sir, this is the front desk. There's a gentleman here that says he hit your car in the parking lot."
"with your car."
"We have the plate on your room registration."
"Well, I don't know. He went back outside".
"Okay. Thank you." Jerry hung up the phone and rolled down the window. He inched the car closer to the back door and angled toward the alley exit.
$17,000 in cash. That's what T came out with. The only sound Mary had heard had been the muted thump of the door of 2 0 5 being kicked in. T ran out and they got away clean. Mary got nothing more than Jerry's goodwill. He told Mary that they were closer to live in the lives they've dreamed of with this score. This was his theme song. They were one big happy family. The goal was one day to live in a mansion. All the girls would drive luxury cars. They'd wrap themselves in furs and jewelry, and they'd all be happy-rich. Mary didn't believe him, but she did like to hear him talk that way. It meant he wasn't mad.
The other girls all hugged Mary when they heard. All wanted to know the story. Everyone was happy, except for Amber. The bottom bitch, Amber couldn't stand that Mary had pulled off such a big trick without her. So she started screwing Mary over. There were times when Amber collected money for Jerry, and he later scolded Mary for coming up short. Mary denied it at the time. And then it happened again. Jerry refused to believe that Amber was lying to him. After all, Amber was his most loyal, most trusted girl. Amber had stuck with him the longest. One night, Mary was sitting on the couch at her assigned house. The other girls were there, which was unusual. Daddy had called a family meeting for all the girls staying at that house. Mary didn't think much about it. When daddy came in that night, it started slow. With the girls sitting in a semicircle around him, daddy began a sermon about family, loyalty, work ethic, betrayal, and punishment. And as daddy's voice rose, Mary noticed that he seemed to be focused on her. His anger grew and his eyes flashed wildly. Suddenly daddy lunged forward, grabbing Mary by the hair and dragging her forward to the middle of the circle. " You stealing from us bitch? You keep in our money?" Daddy's questions were punctuated by punches to the side of her face. Mary was on all fours crawling to keep up, scared that her hair was going to be pulled out. The other girls watched in silent horror, his daddy drug her into an adjacent bedroom where he beat and raped her. The girls in the living room didn't dare move. So they sat and listened to everything.
Despite the horror of what happened to her. Mary counted herself fortunate that she had not received other worst punishments. She had seen daddy lock a girl in a small closet they called the box. The box was barely big enough to be called a closet. It was a solid wood box, just big enough to sit down. The girl she saw was locked in for four days. She was given water twice. After the first day, she cried out calling for somebody to help her. Daddy, who only spent a couple hours there a day, heard the girl. He opened the door, kicked and punched her, and slammed the door on her. Daddy screamed warnings to all the other girls that they'd better stay away unless they wanted to turn in the box.
Mary thinks about how the rape wasn't Amber's only revenge. She made Mary work extra tricks on the street to make up for the money daddy thought she shorted him. A few minutes ago, one of those tricks tried to kill her. Mary realizes that she's missed how dangerous Amber could be. Mary missed it because she has no interest in being bottom bitch. Mary doesn't want to be the enforcer, the snitch, the one hustling the other girls. Amber can have it.
Mary continues her walk up the tracks as her mind, wanders back, trying to sort her life. The memory of a thousand tricks. The memory of Jerry beating and raping her. The guy who just tried to rape her. Then she thinks of her little sister, Michelle.
With the thought of Michelle, Mary collapses to the gravel.
Mary is racked with sobs on her hands and knees in the darkness, the memories wash over her. Mary's sister, Michelle was supposed to be safe with foster parents. Mary had only seen her once since she left her mother's apartmentf or the last time. Mary had walked into a diner and saw her sister sitting with a woman who looked to be in her forties. Michelle looked surprised. Mary nodded her head towards the bathroom as she walked past. When Mary came in, they hugged and questions flooded out of both of them. Mary could only answer her sister with lies, but she was satisfied with what she got back. Michelle liked the people she was living with and was doing good in school.
It was a shock to Mary that when she next saw Michelle, she was sitting on the couch in one of Jerry's apartments. Her little sister was high and had the familiar look of a girl who hadn't slept in days. Mary laid into Michelle, "what the fuck are you doing here?"
The sad truth was that Michelle had lied to Mary too. The foster home had been a nightmare.
Michelle hadn't known that Mary was with Jerry. She just knew Mary was somewhere on the street and Michelle had followed. Mary had tried to keep Michelle close while she figured out what to do. But somehow Jerry had found out they were sisters. Only a couple of other bitches knew, but one of them had blabbed. Jerry came up with a rule that sisters couldn't stay together. So Michelle moved back to the original place and Mary wasn't able to keep track of her. In the months that followed, Mary saw Michelle only sporadically. Mary knew that Amber and the other girls were keeping tabs on them. Each time they bumped into each other, Michelle looked a little more strung out. Her skin was pale. She was losing weigh. Her eyes hollowed out and dark.
One night, Mary thought Amber was being uncharacteristically nice to her. Mary had shields up, so when Amber hit her with the emotional blast, Mary didn't give the reaction that Amber was going for. Dripping with fake compassion, Amber told Mary, she was so sorry about Michelle and the baby. Mary shrugged it off until she was out of sight of Amber. Then she ran up the street to a gas station, caught a cab and was banging on the door of Michelle's apartment 10 minutes later.
A girl named Jen opened the door with a worried look. "Jerry said, you're not supposed to be here."
"Come on Jen. I need to see Michelle."
"Jerry's trying to call you."
"I left the phone at my house", Mary lied. She turned off the phone in the cab when it started to ring. "I got to see her, Jen." Mary was on the verge of tears, trembling hands covering her mouth pacing back and forth.
Jen frowned. Nodded, "okay, but you never talked to me." Jen stepped back as Mary flew past and up the stairs.
Mary flipped the lights on afraid of what she would find. Michelle was lying on her back. The bed was small, but she looked tiny in it nonetheless. For a moment, Mary thought her sister was dead. But her eyes opened and her head lolled to the side so she could look at Mary. She gave her a faint smile. Mary saw that she was flushed and sweating. "Shell, what happened?" Michelle's gaze was flat at first. Then her face contorted, tears squeezing out the side of her eyes, "I was pregnant," She choked and then gasped for air. Mary c