2 runaway girls say man held them for sex trafficking

Robert McCaw (Greene County jail)
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - A man from Springfield is accused of harboring two runaway girls at his home, providing them with illegal drugs, and forcing one or both of them to engage in prostitution. Police arrested Robert McCaw last Thursday, possibly one day before he was planning to take one or both of the girls to St. Louis.

Springfield police said in the probable cause statement used as the basis of the charges against McCaw that a 14-year-old girl ran away on May 8 while she was at library on North Kansas Expressway. Two days later, a detective got information that the runaway girl had been at the home of a 13-year-old friend.

When police questioned the mother of the friend, she said both girls had been at her home on May 8 but left her home that day and hadn’t been seen since then. The mother said her daughter had called on May 8 and said they were at the home of the second girl’s father. The mother talked to a man on the phone who claimed to be the father, but the mother said she didn’t recognize the man’s voice. The mother filed a missing person report for her daughter on May 11, the day after detectives interviewed her.

A detective spoke to a social worker on the afternoon of May 11. The social worker had information about the two runaway girls that came via a third girl. The third girl said she’d been in contact on Facebook with the first runaway girl. In those Facebook messages, the runaway girl said “she had been engaging in sexual intercourse for money, had to give all of her proceeds from the sexual acts to ‘the boss’, and said that ‘the boss’ was going to be taking (her) to St. Louis on May 12,” according to the probable cause statement.

A detective “petitioned Facebook for emergency disclosure information” about the runaway girl’s Facebook account. Within hours, that information led police to a neighborhood near Catalpa Street at New Avenue, southwest of the downtown area. Officers went to that neighborhood early on Thursday evening.

While they were getting ready to search for the girls, the first runaway girl sent a Facebook message to the third girl that she was at 1223 S. New Ave., that another girl was with her, that a man “had forced them to use drugs, . . . was trying to take (her) phone, and would not let them leave the residence.” The girl sending the messages “was crying while relaying this information,” according to the probable cause statement.

As detectives and uniformed officers approached the home, the two runaway girls ran out of the home into the backyard, where police detained them. They told officers that a man named “Bobby” had fled the home on foot. They gave a description of that man and police located him, but he “fled on foot multiple times, ultimately being taken into custody” on Grand Street near Kansas Avenue. It turned out to be McCaw.

The detective says McCaw said he lived at 1223 S. New. He was carrying “manufacturers’ directions for an electronic scale, a common item used in the drug trade, as well as four cell phones,” the probable cause statement says. Use of multiple cell phones is a common tactic by drug sellers.

Police found two other men about a block from the home on New. The two runaway girls told detectives that those two men had been at the home on New earlier in the day and one of them sold methamphetamine to McCaw. The girls both said McCaw had forced one of the girls to use meth.

McCaw is charged with five crimes: two counts of second-degree child sexual trafficking, two counts of child endangerment, and second-degree statutory rape. He could face many years in prison if he’s convicted.

Prosecutors say McCaw, 32, has a conviction for theft in Greene County in 2007 and a conviction for possession of a controlled substance in Greene County in 2009. Those convictions classify him as a persistent offender that will lengthen his prison sentences if he’s convicted of the new charges.

Prosecutors said McCaw “has multiple probation violations and a past revocation of his probation. The defendant has a pending case for felony possession of a controlled substance . . . marijuana and heroin . . . (and) was released on his own recognizance on that case on March 2, 2017.” They requested and obtained a $500,000 bond for McCaw because they view him as a flight risk.