COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Boone County Prosecutor's office filed its third robbery and sexual assault case against a Jefferson City man since his arrest in late October.
19-year-old Jemell Butler faces new charges of second-degree robbery, rape, sodomy and kidnapping for an incident reported to Columbia police in early October. Butler was arrested on October 18 when CPD said a woman escaped from his car on I-70 Drive Southwest, saying Butler threatened her with a knife to perform a sex act.
The new charges, filed Tuesday, claim the suspect contacted a woman on backpage.com, a classified advertisement website, in "response to an ad." The victim traveled to Columbia "to spend 3 hours with him for $900," the statement said.
When in town, Columbia police said the victim walked with the suspect to a "dark wooded alley where he assaulted her by placing her into a headlock and pushing her into the bushes." The statement said the suspect stole a knife and money from her, then forced her to have sex with him, "putting her into a headlock" when she resisted.
After taking her to a place on "Bryant Parkway", the statement said Butler raped her several more times, then took her downtown to get a cab. Police said the victim took a cab to St. Robert, a town in Phelps County two hours south of Columbia, where she reported the incident to the department there.
The St. Robert Police Department did not return a message left by ABC 17 News on Tuesday.
Columbia police also suspect Butler for a similar robbery just four days after this. Spokeswoman Bryana Larimer said on October 7, a female victim arranged to meet Butler online, where he would "provide the victim and her boyfriend a place to stay." The two walked through a a wooded area "in the area of Garth Avenue and Oak Street," when Butler and two female suspects began hitting her, taking her cellphone, jewelry and purse. The suspects threw her clothes in the woods, the victim told police, and they eventually found her on the 300 block of Oak Street.
ABC 17 News reported Butler's October 18 arrest on I-70 Drive Southwest near Fazoli's restaurant. Police suspect Butler threatened a woman he met online while parked in the area. Officers found cut marks on Butler's hands, suspected to be from a knife the victim claimed he had.
Given these incidents, investigators presented a photo lineup to the victim in the October 3 case. The probable cause statement said the victim pointed out Butler, saying "she was 100% sure."
ABC 17 News could not get in touch with Matthew Mueller, Butler's attorney in the two other cases, Tuesday. Butler is held at the Boone County Jail without bond.
The reference to backpage.com is the first one of the three to specify the platform Butler is suspected of using in the three assaults. The website is the subject of a U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee for Investigations into online sex trafficking. Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer was subpoenaed to testify at a Nov. 19 hearing, but did not appear, according to a news release from Subcommittee Chairman Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, the ranking member of the PSI, said the committee took websites like Backpage's role in child sex trafficking seriously.
"If Backpage thinks they are going to go quietly into the night, they are sadly mistaken," McCaskill, D-Missouri, said at the hearing.
Portman said he would consider asking the Department of Justice to step in to file criminal contempt charges against Ferrer.