Local News

Tuesday, Jan 22 2013 06:14 PM

Victim in human trafficking case uninjured, to be reunited with family

BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

Bakersfield Police revealed Tuesday that the victim in a human trafficking case who police say was kidnapped from Kern County and taken to Reno, Nev., earlier this month was uninjured after her ordeal and is expected to be reunited with her family Wednesday.

BPD spokeswoman Michaela Beard said the last known location for the victim was Reno and that "she's supposed to be reunited with her family" Wednesday. Beard said the victim had been "released" but that she did not know from where the girl had been released.

Beard declined to give the victim's age.

"All we can say is that she's a juvenile victim," Beard said.

Police located the victim through social media and the assistance of the Reno Police Department, Beard said.

Vernon McCullum III, 19, of Reno, is still in custody at the Washoe County Detention Facility in Reno on suspicion of crimes including pandering/transporting a child for prostitution with the threat of force, according to the Washoe Sheriff's Office website.

Beard said Shanell Smith, 19, also of Reno, who police were seeking for questioning in the case, has been located.

The girl's family called the BPD to report her missing, Beard said. Beard did not know what day the parents phoned police. Police have said Smith lured the victim to a Bakersfield market where McCullum was waiting on Jan. 8.

Police said McCullum had sex with the girl at a motel and that he and Smith offered to take her to school the next day but instead headed north on Highway 99.

The victim was taken to Reno where she was forced to participate in prostitution and pose for nude pictures, according to police. The girl tried to escape more than once, but McCullum assaulted her, police said.

Beard said she couldn't disclose whether the victim knew Smith or McCullum.

"We wouldn't want to compromise the investigation by giving too much information" that could negatively impact a trial, Beard said.

Reno police confirmed last week that their officers arrested McCullum on Jan. 15. The department did not return phone messages left Monday and Tuesday.

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