CLEVELAND - Family members searched unsuccessfully for a 15-year-old Cleveland runaway for almost one year. Then a break came earlier this month.
On June 11, Cleveland police got a call from a teen girl who told them she escaped from an apartment on the city's west side after being a sex slave and unknowingly being infected with the HIV virus.
The now 16-year-old girl admitted to authorities that, at first, she willingly moved into the apartment of Richard Morris, 28, and his wife Tranace, 23, on W. 174th Street in September 2010 when she ran away from her family's house. At that point, her family reported her missing and she was soon after profiled by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The girl met Richard Morris on an Internet chat room in late 2009. After talking via the web for several months, Morris began picking her up from her house and she told authorities she began engaging in consensual sex with both the husband and wife.
According to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, Morris never told the girl he had HIV and ended up getting the teen pregnant. That's when Morris created a fake ID for the teen and drove her to Detroit for an abortion.
Tips led Cleveland police to the home on multiple occasions, but they could never find the girl.
"The police went over there so many times," recalled neighbor Shakara Welch. "All the residents were outside and they always came up empty handed and we wondered why," she said.
That's because prosecutors would later discover Morris had a video surveillance system that alerted him to when police were coming. When they searched the apartment the victim was always hiding in a compartment inside a couch.
"This is not that much different than when they're moving young children from one city to another city and having the sex slaves," said Mason. "This is not that much different except that it was happening here in our neighborhood."
In the end Mason says it was the victim who alerted police. "They began to beat her and and assaulted her when she wanted to leave. She then left their house and ran to a neighbor's house and called 9-1-1," said Mason.
Morris and his wife now face a 14-count indictment, including kidnapping, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, felonious assault and more.
Richard and Tranace Morris are currently behind bars in the Cuyahoga County Jail and will be arraigned on Friday. They face dozens of years in prison if convicted of the crimes.
The teen girl is currently living in a group home and undergoing counseling.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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