Natchitoches Parish, LA (KMSS) — Barcodes are very common, but not when they are on a person, marking her as a slave. That was the case for a woman in Natchitoches Parish.
Human trafficking is a problem worldwide, but it’s unexpected in rural Natchitoches Parish.
Even so, on May 31, in the Texaco parking lot in Natchitoches, Robeline Assistant Marshal Shelby Borders saw something alarming.
Natchitoches Sheriff Victor Jones explained what happened that night to Marshal Borders. "The victim that that time approached him wearing a collar with a chain with a bucket. The victim started explaining to Marshal Borders that he had been held for several days."
Borders called the Natchitoches Police Department, but when they learned that the alleged crimes happened in the small town of Ajax, the sheriff’s office was called in. NPSO immediately started investigating the case, and what they found shocked them.
Detectives say during the course of the investigation, they learned that the 54 year old victim initially met a Ajax couple identified as David Rodriguez Jr. and Christina Marie Harper online and agreed to voluntarily move into their home about 2 years ago from her home in Minnesota. A transgender woman, her family had cut her off. Rodriguez actually drove to the victim’s Minnesota house and assisted her in packing and moving to his residence. While living with the couple, detectives learned that the victim became enslaved by Rodriguez. According to a website about slave registry, that happened in October of 2012, although the couple backdated their ownership to May 5, 2012. However, it wasn’t until June that the victim was tattooed with a barcode that corresponded to the one on the slave registry website. Rodriguez allegedly made the victim turn over all cash and relinquish ownership of a 1999 Harley Davidson motorcyle to him.
The victim was given a list of daily chores to complete by her master which included serving meals, drinks, taking care of animals, leveling dirt for a swimming pool, installing a swimming pool, digging trenches, removal of fallen trees and performing sexual acts.
Detectives also learned if the victim failed to perform any assigned duties, she was subject to beatings and discipline by Rodriguez, Harper, and a third person identified as Amber Lomas which included beatings, carving initials into undisclosed areas of her body, tazed and urine being thrown on her.
NPSO Lead Detective Tim Key said the situation wasn’t much better at night. "They had built a 3 by 5 wooden box in the master bedroom at the foot of the bed. and this was her living conditions."
Even so, the victim accepted the arrangement, until the couple caught her smoking. That’s when things changed. Key explained, "they chained her outside for two days and nights, nude, in the woods, with no food no water, and she was put in a car max storage building in the backyard, and she was chained in there on Monday, until she broke free on Saturday the 31st with a 35 foot chain around her neck."
When in the metal storage container, the victim was fed just once a day and given limited water and urine to hydrate herself. The container had no windows, but did appear to have an air conditioning unit attached to it.
After the sheriff’s office looked into the victim’s allegations, they executed a search warrant on the couples house in the 500 block of Dick Anderson Road on June 4. They seized fifteen firearms, a stun gun, four computers, 2-tablet computers, three external hard drives, one digital camera, one digital video camera, and an Ipod.
They also made 3 arrests. 37 year old David Rodriguez and his wife 39 year old Christina Harper were both charged with 1-count of Human Trafficking, 1-count of Aggravated Second Degree Battery, 1-count of Second Degree Kidnapping/False Imprisonment, and 2-counts of Offenses against Computer Users.
Bond set at $635.000 dollars each. 39 year old Ambre Tubbs Lomas of Shreveport was charged with 1-count of Second Degree Kidnapping/False Imprisonment, and 1-count of Aggravated Second Degree Battery. Her bond set at $525,000 dollars. According to NPSO, additional charges will be added.
Two children in the residence, ages: fifteen and sixteen were removed by the State Office of Child Protective Services. There is a chance they could be facing charges as well.
A 30 year veteran in local law enforcement, this case has shocked Sheriff Victor Jones, "this is probably one of the most gruesome deal that I've ever heard of, never experienced anything like it before."
It has also shocked the human rights group, Equality Louisiana who made this statement, “The leaders and members of Louisiana Trans Advocates and Equality Louisiana are full of grief and sadness today as we learn that a transgender woman has been held captive and tortured by three individuals in the Ajax area of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. She was systematically abused, assaulted and dehumanized by her captors for months. Through her remarkable strength and resilient hope, she fought to survive and successfully escaped captivity.”
The Transgender Violence Tracking Portal also issued a statement; "The Transgender Violence Tracking Portal is astounded, saddened and stunned to report that a transgender woman was brutally tortured and held as a slave by two women and a man in Louisiana. The systematic vileness of the dehumanization and assault on this woman by the three perpetrators is beyond words".