Two and a half years ago, Detective Kyle Hartsock of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office was on his way to the copy machine when a chance encounter kicked off a case that became one of his first successful convictions of a sex trafficker.
As he overheard a deputy detailing the “crazy life story” of a 17-year-old girl who had been working as a prostitute in Montana and was facing other charges in New Mexico, Hartsock suspected something else was going on.
He suspected she had been forced to have sex for money.
“Within a week I was able to schedule an interview with her,” Hartsock said. “Six interviews later, we had a case with two male suspects identified, and arrested the girl’s mom who basically agreed to sell her daughter to these traffickers.”
Hartsock arrested Stephon McDaniel, 24, Lavodrick Hogues, 29, and the girl’s mother and charged them with human trafficking. The girl’s stepfather was also charged with child abuse for allegedly giving the girl methamphetamine.
McDaniel pleaded no contest to human trafficking and other charges last January, according to court documents. He was sentenced to six years in prison and had to register as a sex offender.
Hogues was extradited to Montana where he faced charges of aggravated promotion of prostitution and the case against him is ongoing.
Last July, 2nd Judicial District Court Judge Alisa Hadfield dismissed the cases against the girl’s mother and stepfather without prejudice, which means they can be refiled, because the state didn’t turn over key evidence to the defense by the court deadlines.
Hartsock said the successes in that case helped him convince the sheriff to let him train all deputies about sex trafficking in the hopes they will be able to identify cases to bring to detectives in the future.
“Without this deputy talking at the copy machine and the good luck of me just walking by we don’t even get the case,” Hartsock said. “That’s why we are focusing more on this training aspect.”