DALLAS – How does a 15-year-old girl go to a bathroom at an NBA arena, never make it back to her seat, and end up being found a week and a half later being sold for sex in a hotel more than 200 miles away?
That’s what the family of the teen want to know — especially because they say there are so many people, including police — who could have prevented the incident from happening.
According to a report on KVUE.com, the ordeal began on April 8, when the girl went to a Dallas Mavericks game with her father at the American Airlines Center.
She went to the bathroom before halftime, but never made it back to her seat. Surveillance footage showed video of her leaving the arena with a man that night.
On April 18, police found the teen in a hotel room in Oklahoma City after her parents identified her through nude photos that had been posted online in sex advertisements.
While the teen’s family was relieved that she was found alive, they’re angry over how the situation was handled, according to their attorney, Zeke Fortenberry. He sent a letter last week to multiple parties he believes could have done things differently, possibly even preventing the situation from escalating.
“Our intent is to put [these organizations] on notice that we’re pursuing claims against them for their negligence and other causes of action,” Fortenberry said, according to the report.
Fortenberry said when the father realized his daughter was missing, he notified police at the game. But, according to Fortenberry, the father was told to report it to North Richland Hills police, where he lives.
The father called North Richland Hills police, but was told by the law enforcement agency that it couldn’t help because the the incident happened in Dallas, Fortenberry said.
North Richland Hills police said that they received the report about the missing teen at 1:27 a.m., about six hours after the game started. The department said the teen was entered in the national missing person database by 3:24 a.m. on April 9.
Dallas Police said they helped North Richland Hills PD and created a bulletin for the missing teen that went out to the department on April 11.
Fortenberry said those efforts weren’t enough.
He said it wasn’t police, but a Houston-based human trafficking agency, Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative, that was able to use their face-recognition technology to help break open the case.
“That agency was able to help them locate the photograph of their daughter online within the same day,” Fortenberry said.
The agency then contacted Oklahoma City Police, which found the missing teen and arrested eight people in connection with the case.
Fortenberry said he sent letters to the American Airlines Center, the Dallas Mavericks, the Dallas Police Department and the Oklahoma City hotel where the teen was found were all listed as parties that could have prevented the situation.
According to Fortenberry, the man the teen left with got into the game with a fake ticket that was sold to him by someone known by both organizations for selling fake tickets, the report said.
Fortenberry said he has not yet received a response from any of the parties to whom he sent the letter. But he said he hopes to hear back within the next month, so the situation can be settled without a lawsuit.