MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota woman is free after being held captive in Louisiana for two years.
Authorities say she had recently made the transition from male to female, and was forced to do hard labor and sexual acts.
Police arrested David Rodriguez Jr., his wife, Christina Harper, and another woman, Ambre Lomas. The transgender woman, originally from Blaine, met the couple online and agreed to move to their home in Louisiana. Police say the relationship became abusive.
“Probably had some depression, you know, going through the sex change, being disowned through the family,” said Carey Etheredge, a criminal investigator and forensic examiner with the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office. “Suspects prey on people in this situation.”
The woman, who in her 50s, suffered beatings, sexual abuse, had markings carved into her body, and a tattoo that registered her as a slave on a website.
She was chained outside, naked, for two days and nights with no food or water, investigators said. She was kept in a storage shed in the Louisiana family’s backyard.
She was found by a Natchitoches Parish assistant town marshal on May 3 near a Louisiana highway with a logging chain wrapped around her, after she managed to escape.
“It feels like an old story in the trans community that this happens over and over again,” said Roxanne Anderson, the director of the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition.
She says transgender women are often specifically targeted in human trafficking.
“Because of economics situations, they’re often not able to maintain employment….and often then become a part of underground industry,” she said.
Anderson says a key to preventing the tragic story out of Louisiana is showing transgender individuals equality.
“From society, a general acceptance,” she said, “and so trans folks then don’t have an issue getting housing or jobs.”
Two children, ages 15 and 16, were also found in the home. They were removed by the State Office of Child Protective Services.
The victim’s name has not been released. She is in protective custody.