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Videos from trafficking investigation released

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque police on Thursday evening released lapel videos and recordings of 911 calls concerning officers responding to a hotel and elementary school in November to check on a 7-year-old girl who the Attorney General’s Office has since said was sex trafficked by her close relatives.

One video shows the officer’s uncertainty about what to do with the girl’s blood-stained underwear. Another shows a shy little girl whose answers to police questions are nearly inaudible.

Two videos were from the Ambassador Inn on Candelaria where the girl was staying with her family and one was recorded at her elementary school.

One video shows officers in a hotel room talking to the girl’s relatives, James Stewart and Teri Sanchez.

In early May, special agents with the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General arrested Stewart and Sanchez, initially charging Stewart with human trafficking and promotion of prostitution and Sanchez with child abuse. The two were indicted Thursday on multiple charges.

One of the videos shows officer Homero Alvidrez’s visit to the school, which included a conversation with a teacher and Children, Youth and Families Department investigator Jeremy Lynn about the girl’s blood-stained underwear and her family.

The teacher had saved the underwear for police as evidence of possible abuse, but the video does not show what he did with it.

In the video, Alvidrez seems unsure about what to do with the underwear and asks Lynn if it would be a good idea to collect it.

In the end, the officer did not take the girl’s underwear because he was waiting for a Crimes Against Children Unit detective to tell him what to do.

Police have since said that the underwear was not tagged into evidence because the girl did not disclose that there had been any abuse.

The interaction has come under scrutiny after the teacher testified in court that when she tried to give the underwear to the officer as evidence of possible sexual abuse, he threw it in a Dumpster.

In an interview Wednesday, Albuquerque police chief Michael Geier said a review of his officers’ interactions with the girl and her siblings did not find that anyone had failed to follow protocol or procedures or made any mistakes. He defended Alvidrez for not taking the girl’s underwear into evidence, saying that at that point no one had reported a crime and the girl did not disclose abuse.

The other two videos show officers responding to the Ambassador Inn, where they had been sent to conduct a welfare check on the 7-year-old after school officials reported the girl and her brother had not shown up at school that day and the girl had blood on her underwear the day before.

At the hotel room, the officer brings the girl into the hallway, away from Stewart and Sanchez, to ask her questions about whether she is being hurt. The girl appears shy and hardly responds, giving short or inaudible answers, and seeming to shake her whole body “no.”

“Was there an incident or anything that happened where you hurt yourself,” he asks. “Did you have anywhere you were bleeding.”

Her reply is inaudible.

The officer then asks her if she feels safe and whether she is treated well at home and again there is no audible response.

She eventually does respond to some questions about how often she’s fed and whether Sanchez and Stewart punish her.

 

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