Family of missing Battle Creek teen fear human trafficking situation
The family of a missing teen fear Lavonda Marriott-Lockmiller, 15, is caught in a dangerous situation with human traffickers that she cannot escape.
Battle Creek Police say their investigation has uncovered no information that sex trafficking is occurring or related to the case; however, concern for the girl’s safety continues to go.
“We want to hope for the best but when no one in Battle Creek can point us in the right direction when we have no leads or anything else, it's concerning,” said Battle Creek Police Sgt. Jeff Case.
Investigators released Monday troubling text messages sent to the missing teen’s mom last week. “Hi mum it’s Lavonda.”
The message was sent from an internet phone that is difficult to trace and a phone number Lavonda’s friends and family don’t recognize.
The girl’s family believes someone else posing as Lavonda sent those messages.
Case said, “Mom was spelled out ‘m-u-m,’ which was completely different than Lavonda has ever done on social media.”
Another message sent last week says, “So I advice [sic] you put down all post and fliers down mum because I am safe and happy where I am now.”
Case said, “That's even more of a concern to us that the only contact we have doesn't sound like it's coming from her.”
A home surveillance camera shows Lavonda leave her house on Fremont Street in Battle Creek in a silver car with three or four young men Aug. 16. The angle of the camera and quality of the video does not reveal the license plate or show the faces of the men. Nearly a month later, police say no one has seen or talked to the missing teen since then.
As more time passes, the level of concern grows that this is not a runaway.
Case said, “The friends don't know, the mom doesn't know, relatives don't know and people that should know don't know.”
Lavonda’s mom responded to the mysterious a message, “Send me a pic of you now,” she wrote to get proof her daughter is save. "If this is Lavonda.”
Without a response Lavonda's mom sent another text that said her daughter wouldn't run away. "Nice try now who is this really," she asked.
Whoever contacted Lavonda's mom never replied.
“When we are three-plus weeks into this and then we have a contact that really doesn't sound like Lavonda, our concern is definitely elevated,” Sgt. Case said.
He again stressed investigators have no proof of sex trafficking and while Battle Creek has seen cases in the past, none have involved children or teens being kidnapped off the streets.
Human traffickers often lure teens away.
Speaking generally, Case said, “Most of the time the cases that we have seen are the cases where drugs, some sort of force or coercion are involved, but it generally happens through a relationship.”
Based on the home security video, police believe Lavonda willingly left her home.
Investigators have received information that theirs is potential Lavonda is in the Battle Creek or Kalamazoo area.
BCPD wants to talk to the people who picked Lavonda up in a silver car Aug. 16 and asks that anyone with information to call (269) 781-0911.