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"A Missouri town's doubts about a sex torture case"

on Sunday, 14 November 2010.

St. Louis Post Dispatch

The trailer sits alone on a hill about 10 miles outside of town, tucked into the rolling farmland, obscured by trees from the gravel road running below. The green-and-white rectangular box is unremarkable, except for what federal authorities say happened inside.

This is the trailer where, according to a federal indictment, a mentally deficient woman was held as a sex slave and tortured for years, subjected to stomach-churning cruelties, the center of acts called by the U.S. attorney "among the most horrific ever prosecuted" in this part of Missouri.

Knowing this, the trailer suddenly looks different — sinister. Evil, even.

But step inside the trailer, talk with the last person living there, and another story unfolds. Visit people around this small town, a conservative "church town" midway between Rolla and Springfield, and that damning picture becomes less clear. Listen to the waitresses, store clerks and acquaintances who know the people at the heart of this case, and you can hear their doubt, even as they cast a disapproving eye on what took place.

"They no more held that woman captive than a man on the moon," says Lorrie Bredvick, 46, who runs La Mexican Kitchen restaurant in town and got to know the woman over several years as a frequent patron who shared shocking details from her private life. "She was very proud of what she did."

Yet experts say sex trafficking cases can project appearances that camouflage what is truly taking place.

"Traffickers really know how to manipulate people and their circumstances so it is not easily seen," said Suzanne LeLaurin, head of the St. Louis human trafficking coalition and a senior vice president at the International Institute in St. Louis, which helps trafficking victims. ...

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