Boone County woman accused of sex trafficking disabled minor

A man is charged with rape in the same case

Woman sex trafficked minor

COLUMBIA, Mo. - UPDATE: Both Collins and Thomas were booked into the Boone County jail around 8 p.m. Wednesday. They are scheduled to appear in court Thursday. 

ORIGINAL: Prosecutors have charged a Boone County woman with using a mentally and physically disabled minor for prostitution out of a motel room and a man with raping the girl.

Renee Collins was charged Tuesday with second-degree child sex trafficking and first-degree child endangerment and William A. Thomas Jr. was charged with first-degree rape. They were not in custody Wednesday afternoon.

ABC 17 News spoke with The Welcome Inn Regional Manager Brittnii George. She said she contacted authorities when she saw suspicious behavior.

"We did observe questionable behavior and activity and actually reported it so that's where the call originated from," George said.

An investigation began after the FBI received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that a girl was being left in a room at the Welcome Inn with strange men, according to a probable cause statement filed in the case. A witness told Columbia Police Department investigators on July 7, 2017 that Collins had been offered cocaine in exchange for the girl having sex with two men, the statement said.

The girl was taken into protective custody the same day. Witnesses also told investigators that she told them Thomas had raped her.

She suffers from cerebral palsy, autism and mental disabilities, is partially deaf and uses leg braces because of club feet, the statement said. A case worker also told investigators the girl functions at the level of a 2-year-old or 3-year-old child and requires care around the clock.

Bond for Thomas and Collins was set at $200,000 cash-only each.

A founding member of the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, Nanette Ward, said sex trafficking happens far more often than people realize. 

"This is a case that we know about but as we speak I know right now, I have no doubt, that there is some other minor being sold to somebody," Ward said.

The Director of Operations for the Missouri Hotel and Lodging Association recommended all hotels and motels have their employees participate in a free training through the Missouri Attorney General's office. The training helps employees look out for the signs of sex trafficking. 

"There is nothing that requires a hotel to report [sex trafficking] beyond just being a good citizen," Trey Propes said. "Take the training. Make that part mandatory training for your front desk associates." 

Former Gov. Eric Greitens signed legislation last year that requires some businesses to hang a poster with the National Human Trafficking Hotline. 

Businesses in areas most likely to see sex trafficking will have to hang posters beginning March 1, 2019. 

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