A man living in one of Seattle's unauthorized homeless encampments is being investigated for allegedly raping and trafficking a teenager, KIRO 7 has learned.
The 16-year old girl is a runaway from New Jersey. The alleged attacker is still at large.
Her disappearance was featured in a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Facebook page alert and also on the New Jersey State Police website for missing children.
According to investigative documents filed by a Seattle Police Department detective in King County Superior Court, the girl took a Greyhound bus from the East Coast to Seattle in November, and was "traded, sold and raped" while living in at least two of Seattle's homeless encampments: the one near the Greyhound Station on South Royal Brougham, and the one between South Dearborn Street and I-90.
A large tent at the Dearborn site is what the SPD detective filed a warrant to search, looking for the gun the girl said a man used to threaten her repeatedly when she tried to leave.
According to police documents, investigators started working the case in early January when a confidential informant reported "a juvenile was living in the homeless encampment referred to as ‘The Jungle’” and that the girl was "working as a prostitute" for the suspect. When a safety check was done at the South Dearborn encampment earlier this month, the missing New Jersey teen was recovered.
She told investigators when she tried to leave, the suspect pointed a "gun at her, threatening her and telling her she could not."
Allynn Ruth lives near the Dearborn encampment. She told KIRO 7 on Wednesday, the alleged sex trafficking of a teen runaway is disturbing from a public safety standpoint.
"Being homeless is an unfortunate situation," she said, "but you don't get a pass in committing and visiting mayhem on other people because you're homeless."
The police document was dated in early January and authorized detectives to search the suspect's tent within ten days, but investigators haven't commented on what they might have found. The Seattle Police Department declined to comment on the investigation other than saying the alleged attacker is still at large.
Meanwhile, the website posts featuring the missing New Jersey girl have been removed indicating the child is no longer missing. The Seattle Police Department also wouldn't confirm whether the girl has been returned to New Jersey.
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