NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A missing teen is recovered and a man and woman are behind bars accused of trafficking the 17-year-old girl.
Tuesday, a State Trooper stopped the two for a routine traffic stop in Hickman County. A female juvenile was inside the vehicle, and after questioning the adults, the Human Trafficking Unit was called.
Jeremy Lofquest, Assistant Special Agent in charge of the TBI's Human Trafficking Unit, responded to the call. "You've got these traffickers that know the specific needs of, say for children, the specific needs that they're looking for," he said. "If they're a runaway, a throw-away, or just looking to get out of maybe a bad situation at home."
Agents confirmed the teen was the subject of an active missing child search in Knoxville. They say the adults are believed to have been trafficking her for commercial sex acts.
Kelli Cary, CEO of AncoraTN, said it's a situation she sees all too often. "So in 2022 we had 340 crisis calls and referrals at Ancora Tennessee and about 40% of those were youth."
She said, while not always, victims often know their perpetrators.
"So what we see on a regular basis are individuals, both minors and adults, trafficked for sex and labor throughout every zip code, every county in Tennessee," said Cary.
Cary said social media has also made it easier for perpetrators to target and groom their victims. "We see exploitation take place on common platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, as well as some uncommon apps and platforms as well."
The teen was taken to a Nashville facility for care and services and the man and woman were arrested and charged.
21-year-old Chad Corley of Memphis and 19-year-old Zoe Whitlock of Ellisville, Mississippi, were taken to Hickman County Jail on one count each of trafficking for commercial sex acts. Their bonds are set at $120,000 each.
If you or someone you know may be the victim of human trafficking, you can call the confidential National Human Trafficking Hotline 24/7 at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.