16-year-old 'Stacy' says she and a younger teenage cousin were held captive last year in a southwest Toledo home by Deric Willoughby and forced to work as prostitutes for him.
In the world of teenage prostitution, flattery works wonders.
Pimps recruiting young girls lace their patter with sweet talk and promises of adventure and easy cash. Skillfully crafted, theirs is a well-worn sales pitch with a predictable opening line: "You're so pretty."
And then, authorities say, there's Deric Willoughby.
Prostitutes and prosecutors alike say that Willoughby, known on Toledo's streets as Mackevelli, is the antithesis of a smooth-talking pimp: His heavy-handed tactics earned him a reputation as a "guerrilla" pimp.
"I remember him like yesterday. I've got scars on my body from him," a former teen prostitute said. She told Toledo police four years ago that Willoughby tried to kidnap and rape her.
At Chase and Galena streets, she said, she escaped by diving from Willoughby's moving car.
In San Francisco, Norma Hotaling runs a nationally known shelter for young hookers and had heard about the Willoughby case. An ex-prostitute herself, she long ago learned the distinction between "finesse" and "guerrilla" pimps.
The former, she said, masquerade as boyfriends when "shopping" for girls at parties or malls.
"There are guys who say ... 'You're not getting paid enough. Why are you wearing those raggedy tennis shoes? Your family doesn't let you stay out late.' The guerrilla pimps just go out there and take them."
Tomorrow, the 41-year-old Willoughby -- a onetime college student arrested for selling cocaine -- is set to appear in U.S. District Court in Detroit on charges that he was trafficking teenage prostitutes.
Police say that in May, 2005, he strong-armed two Toledo cousins, ages 14 and 15, holding them captive behind the locked, iron-barred door of his Downing Avenue home in southwest Toledo.
Police said he ordered the girls to call him "Daddy" and directed two veteran hookers who worked for him to train the girls for the sex trade.
Court documents say Willoughby "grabbed and shoved" one victim into a mirrored wall when she "refused to perform a striptease dance in front of the mirror."
Investigators said the girls tried to escape, but Willoughby shoved one into a glass table. He pulled the other girl to the second floor by her hair, they said, then shoved her down the stairs.
Allegedly selling the teens for sex at least a dozen times over the next week in Toledo-area hotels, Willoughby was arrested after a Washtenaw County, Michigan, detective found one of the teens at a Dexter, Mich., truck stop.
A trucker had paid $100 to have sex with her while an 18-year-old, veteran hooker stood guard and collected the money, police said. The teen's cousin was rescued hours later at the Downing address -- but only, according to witnesses and cops, after Willoughby pummeled the father who came to rescue her.
Drawing a line
Even with a new federal focus on juvenile prostitution, the case against Willoughby stands out for its bold violence.
If what prosecutors allege is true, Willoughby's tactics are so harsh that even other pimps keep their distance.
Derek Maes, a convicted Toledo pimp now facing similar federal charges in Pennsylvania, earlier this year defended himself in a Blade interview as "finesseful," careful to distinguish between both types of pimps.
"I'm not a Deric Willoughby," he said, "What he's done, that's not me ... I'm not aggressive like that."
Such remarks don't surprise Celia Williamson, a University of Toledo professor who has spent more than a decade researching Toledo's prostitution subculture, learning its hierarchy and rules.
"When you're finessing, you're really mentored by an old-school pimp. They teach you the ways of pimping. It's an art. It's a strategy and a skill," she said. "Guerrilla pimping is just taking power and control. I don't want to say it's not respected by other pimps, but it doesn't require a lot of skill."
Wayne Banks, Jr., a third-generation Toledo pimp serving an unprecedented 40-year sentence for trafficking a 17-year-old South Toledo girl, conceded that he's occasionally hit women in his "stable."
Still, he draws the line: "As a matter of honor, a self-respecting pimp wouldn't hold anybody against their will. Such a notion is a disgrace to the profession."
Fear, a 'bad debt'
Willoughby has been accused of crimes more times than he has been convicted.
Even though some half-dozen women -- bloodied, scraped, and bruised -- named Willoughby as their batterer in a string of Toledo police reports, tomorrow's hearing in federal court could mark his first violent felony conviction.
A case more than 10 years ago is alarmingly similar to the charges he now faces. On Dec. 5, 1995, a 15-year-old girl told police that Willoughby raped her in his Old West End apartment, then held her hostage behind iron doors for a day.
Willoughby, the police report said, "told her that he would be her mom and dad ... that he was taking her to the truck stop to work, and that she was giving him all the money."
Toledo police Detective Danny Navarre originally charged Willoughby with kidnapping and rape. But as the court date neared, the frustrated detective couldn't find the victim and the case fell apart.
"What are you going to do? [The victims] are more afraid of him than they are of the police," the veteran cop said.
Even today, the woman refused to talk about the ordeal recently when contacted by The Blade because she fears that Willoughby "has people out there."
"It was in my past," she said in a voice mail responding to an interview request. "I want to leave it at that."
But victim fear isn't the only problem.
In a skeptical criminal justice system, sometimes it's not only the defendant on trial -- it's the hooker's credibility as well.
No surprise, then, that victims can feel powerless.
And sometimes, violence is simply an accepted risk of sex for hire.
Four of the women who have claimed Willoughby battered them either have criminal records themselves or told The Blade they were selling sex.
Sgt. Greg Smith, another Toledo police veteran, arrested Willoughby last year after the two teen cousins claimed they'd been kidnapped.
He oversaw the local rape case that eventually became the first and only federal case against Willoughby.
He wasn't surprised to learn that a Blade review found Willoughby had been named in a string of violent cases.
He was equally unfazed when informed that the cases disintegrated into dismissals or misdemeanors.
"I think some people put themselves in harm's way and they see [violence] as a cost of doing business. They write it off as a bad debt -- 'I don't want to go to court. I don't want to invest the time' -- and they move on."
Olinka Briceno sees black eyes, bruises, and deep scars all too often in her work as an outreach worker for young prostitutes in the Boston area.
Over and over, girls are beaten by pimps and johns. Either they don't report it, or they do and their cases go nowhere, she said.
While this kind of violence might shock many -- girls repeatedly battered, abused, and neglected -- those vulnerable enough to become prostitutes often know little else.
Explaining why so few women are willing to go forward with prosecution, Ms. Briceno said: "If I have always been done wrong, and this is just another [abuse] that's happened to me, and [if] I got away from this guy, that's the end of it."
'We were young'
For Kelly Kennedy, it was more of a matter of forgive and forget.
On July 21, 1989, Scottwood Avenue residents called police to report a naked, battered woman running in the street.
Officers followed a trail of blood to a duplex. Inside, they found blood splattered throughout a bedroom, as well as on broom handles, duct tape, and rope.
They also found a bloodied Miss Kennedy, later described by one officer as in shock.
Police reported wrestling an uncooperative Willoughby to the ground before paramedics could take Miss Kennedy, then 20, to the hospital.
To this day, Miss Kennedy said, she blames herself for the 18 staples and 10 stitches it took to close her head wounds.
Describing herself as drugged-out and always on the run, the former hooker lived with Willoughby, cooking and cleaning for him. In return, she said, he tried to keep her off the streets.
When police found blood in their duplex, Miss Kennedy said, they got the wrong impression: "It's because I dived out the window. I was trying to get out of there. He was trying to keep me there."
She still calls Willoughby her friend. They laugh about it now: "We were young."
As for the police, she said, "They'd tried to get me to prosecute him, but I wouldn't."
Other women had injuries that were tough to ignore.
Among them was a girlfriend who in 1995 said Willoughby punched her, and the former teen prostitute whose faint scars, she said, are reminders of the afternoon in 2002 when she jumped naked from a moving car to escape Willoughby.
The girlfriend never showed up in court; neither did the young hooker, who told The Blade she was never notified of court dates.
Both cases were dismissed.
While some may see Willoughby as a textbook case of guerrilla pimping, others see a man viewed by the criminal justice system only one chapter at a time.
"There's the bigger story within his story," Ms. Briceno said. "... There are points where interventions could have happened, and they didn't. What does that say about the system?"
Certainly -- as police and prosecutors know all too well -- allegations don't equal convictions. Angry people can file false charges.
Yet police concede Willoughby has been accused of brutality an extraordinary number of times, and they note his accusers seldom have motive to lie.
"When you look at his body of work," Sergeant Smith said, "you can see this is a real violent guy, a thug."
The knife is gone now from "Stacy's" bedside, but the nightmares remain.
Stacy is the older of the two cousins whom feds say were kidnapped by Willoughby last year. Her real name is being withheld because she was the victim of an alleged sexual assault.
She turns 17 next month and will attend a new school.
Her mother doesn't want her in court tomorrow. Stacy's not so sure.
"I wanna go, but I really want not to be seen [by Willoughby]," she said.
"When is it going to end?" her mother wondered. "We don't really talk about it much around here anymore. She's doing so good."
"Cara," her cousin who's now 15, is another story.
Not quite one year after the girls' alleged kidnappings and forced prostitution, Cara's father filed a runaway report with police, saying she was pregnant and had left with a 42-year-old man.
A chronic runaway, Cara hasn't been home since.
"Me and [Cara] pretty much are the only ones who can understand each other," Stacy said. "Me, I don't need counseling, but I went anyway. But she never really found a way to deal with it. She never really got it out of her mind."
Contact Robin Erb at: email@example.com or 419-724-6133.