RENO, Nev. -- Local law enforcement officers arrested one suspect in a sexual exploitation and human trafficking case that started in Bakersfield, California. They are still looking for a second suspect.
According to Bakersfield Police Department officials, the case began on January 8th when a 15-year-old female left her home voluntarily and met 19-year-old Shanell Smith of Reno. Investigators say Smith lured the girl to a market on Brundage Ln. in Bakersfield where Vernon McCullum III, also 19 of Reno, was waiting in a vehicle. That is when the three went to a motel where the 15-year-old had sex with McCullum.
The next morning the men offered to take the juvenile to school but instead drove northbound on highway 99. Bakersfield Police officials say the girl begged the men to let her go but they continued to drive north.
The men took the girl to an unknown location where she tried to escape, but McCullum physically stopped her and Smith threatened her with a knife and pepper spray.
Police say the men then took the 15-year-old to a motel in Reno where she was forced into prostitution and pornography. She attempted to escape again but investigators say McCullum physically assaulted her an forced her back into the room.
Details on the arrest are vague, but on January 15th, local officers booked McCullum on Human Trafficking, Kidnapping, False Imprisonment, Criminal Threats, Unlawful Sexual Intercourse, Conspiracy, Publishing Child Pornography, and various drug charges. He is in the Washoe County Detention Center.
Officials are still searching for Shanell Smith. If you have any information on this case, please call the Bakersfield Police Department at (661) 327-7111 or (661) 326-3544.