A New Mexico father was arrested this week for allegedly prostituting his 7-year-old daughter for drugs.
Over the past year, staff at Lew Wallace Elementary School noticed odd behavior involving the little girl and reported it to police. According to KRQE, it was last May when the girl made alarming comments to a teacher, including “Mom and I hustle” and “Mom made me hustle last night.”
KOB reported that the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office began their investigation on April 18, after a school nurse said she believed the 7-year-old was a victim of sexual assault. On one occasion, the girl reportedly came to school wearing high-heel shoes, press-on nails, makeup, and had her hair done.
Last November, a teacher reportedly found dried blood in the girl’s underwear after she came to school smelling like urine. At the time, the teacher was helping her change into donated clothes when she made the shocking discovery. The teacher informed the principal, who reported it to police.
Since then, the 7-year-old reportedly told investigators that father James Stewart, 37, “forces her to touch men and women” and would be paid for these illicit encounters with “weed and pipes and other stuff.”
She said, “I keep saying I don’t want to, but he forces me to,” according to the Star-Telegram.
The girl went on to reveal that Stewart made her pickpocket strangers because her hands were smaller than his, KRQE reported.
Stewart was arrested late Wednesday and is facing various charges, including human trafficking and promoting prostitution.
The girl reportedly also claimed that mother Teri Sanchez would take her to “secret parties”—which police later learned were strip clubs. She said she was left alone in an empty room and would keep herself occupied by “doing gymnastics.”
Police arrested Sanchez late Thursday. She’s been charged with child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. While her role in the alleged prostitution is unclear, attorney general spokesman James Hallinan told KOB that Sanchez was arrested in connection with their “ongoing investigation.”
The Star-Telegram reported that the girl and her 8-year-old brother stopped going to school altogether on March 20. However, authorities said it wasn’t until April 24—after state agents put the children into the missing and endangered persons database—that they located Sanchez and took the children into protective custody. Reports indicated that the family was homeless and had recently checked out of an Albuquerque hotel.
Alarmingly, KOB recently learned police has been in contact with the family since 2012.
“It’s heartbreaking to think about what this child may have allegedly been going through it’s beyond comprehension,” Children Youth and Families Department Secretary Monique Jacobson said, adding that she’s ordered a full investigation to determine if the agency followed protocol in this case.
“I want to know if any interaction or investigation we’ve done with them was done in a thorough manner. We want to look at what else could have been done earlier in the process.”
[Featured Image: James Stewart/Bernalillo County Detention Center]