Springfield couple arrested for child sex trafficking

Published: Oct. 2, 2020 at 9:51 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A man and woman from Springfield face federal charges for child sex trafficking. 41-year-old Joseph Gibson and 35-year old Danna Rodriguez are currently in the Greene County jail.

A 15-year-old girl told police Gibson and Rodriguez were low on cash and convinced her to have sex with strangers to help make money. The two have been in jail since late last week. A local advocate for trafficking victims said, unfortunately, this is not the first time something so traumatic has happened in Springfield.

“Things like this, they happen all the time, and unfortunately people just don’t always get caught doing them," said Dawn Day.

Day works with sex trafficking survivors as the Sexual Assault Program Coordinator at Mercy, and through the awareness organization, STAND Against Trafficking.

“I hear girls all the time say they were forced to do something or they were frauded or they were coerced into doing an act. If they were coerced into doing that act, that’s trafficking, especially if there’s any type of monetary gain by the person controlling them," she said.

In this case, a 15-year-old girl told investigators that two people asked her and her friends if they would perform sex acts for money. A federal complaint states 35-year-old Danna Rodriguez took explicit photos of the 15-year-old to send to potential customers.

The girl told police 41-year-old Joseph Gibson took her to the Red Roof Inn in north Springfield, where Gibson told her to engage in sexual activity for money.

Rodriguez told police the girl offered to “sell her body." Day said, even if that’s true, it doesn’t matter in the eyes of the law.

“That forced, fraud or coercion definition only has to be for anyone who is 18 and up. For any victims younger than 18, any sexual exploitation they go through is automatically human trafficking," Day said.

After the incident at the Red Roof Inn, the girl told police Rodriguez asked her to have sex with strangers for money again. She refused.

Day said these kinds of cases happen far too often, but are unfortunately difficult to carry through court.

“We may look at a situation and everyone that’s an expert in the field knows that victim is truly a victim of sex trafficking, but how do you prove that? So the fact that these people are arrested for this shows that there’s enough proof in the system that shows she was coerced into doing what she did, she didn’t want to do what she did," she said.

Day said she’s hoping the pair will be convicted, which could mean Rodriguez and Gibson could face lengthy prison sentences and register as sex offenders. Neither have court dates set just yet and will remain in the Greene County jail.

Day said the organization STAND Against Trafficking provides free educational courses for any organization or individual who wants to learn more about sex trafficking, the signs and how to support survivors.

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