Yesterday, the Toledo teen sat almost unnoticed in the last row of a federal courtroom here -- a girl who buried her face in her uncle's chest as the man who forced her into prostitution was escorted past in handcuffs.
Deric Willoughby, 41, was one of three Toledoans who pleaded guilty yesterday to federal charges of conspiracy to traffic in prostitution and taking a then-15-year-old girl and her then-14-year-old cousin to Michigan where they were sold for sex.
The other two defendants -- Brandy Shope, 19, and Jennifer Huskey, 25 -- worked for Willoughby as prostitutes. Each faces at least five years in prison. Each answered "no" when Judge Nancy Edmunds asked:
"Has anyone promised you that I would go easy on you or be more lenient if you pleaded guilty?"
The FBI said that in May, 2005, the three defendants took the cousins to Toledo-area hotels and a Michigan truck stop after the girls -- walking one rainy afternoon to get a Frosty -- accepted their offer of a ride.
Because the girls are teens and sex-crime victims, The Blade does not use their real names, calling them "Stacy" and "Cara."
Ten days later, after the girls were prostituted and held captive in Willoughby's Downing Avenue home, a Washtenaw County, Mich., sheriff's deputy found Stacy and Huskey at a truck stop off U.S. 23 near Dexter, Mich. A trucker had paid $100 for sex with Stacy.
Yesterday in court, his left arm draped protectively around Stacy's shoulder, Cara's father listened to Judge Edmunds recite details of the crimes.
Raising his other arm to his face, he wiped away the tears that fell briefly. Stacy stared straight ahead, expressionless.
In April, Cara, a chronic runaway, disappeared again, according to a police report.
Last week, in her family's home where stuffed animals fill her bedroom, Stacy recounted the first night at the Downing house.
Behind locked doors at Willoughby's house, the girls were instructed to call Willoughby "Daddy." By daybreak, they were dressed for their first night at "work."
At a Toledo hotel, they were ordered to stand beside one another so a customer could pick one for sex. Chosen, Stacy was left behind with Huskey, who watched and collected payment. Cara was led away by Shope.
Ordered not to cry, Stacy recalled, "I closed my eyes and didn't think about it, about anything."
Later, she said, the girls were beaten for trying to escape.
In the days that followed, Stacy said, they were dressed in Mary Jane shoes and skimpy clothes meant to look like school uniforms.
Willoughby, Huskey, and Shope are to be sentenced Dec. 6.
The truck driver accused of taking them to Detroit, Richard Lamar Gordon, is due to appear in federal court here at 10 a.m. today. He is charged with conspiracy and transporting minors for prostitution.
Contact Robin Erb at: firstname.lastname@example.org