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15-year-old sex slave rescued

Teens charged with kidnapping and prostitution of Arizona girl

A 15-year-old runaway was allegedly abducted by an older teenage couple in Phoenix, turned into a sex slave and gang raped.  The teen’s body was sold over the internet for weeks until she was able to call her parents for help.

Two suspects in the case, 19-year-old Janelle Butler and 18-year-old Matthew Gay, are in custody, with both facing multiple counts of pandering, child prostitution and kidnapping.  Gray has also been charged with sexual assault and sexual conduct with a minor.

MSNBC-TV's Lisa Daniels spoke with Sgt. Andy Hill, a spokesperson with the Phoenix Police on Thursday’s "Abrams Report" about the girl’s ordeal.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

LISA DANIELS, ABRAMS REPORT GUEST HOST: Are you surprised that you found the victim alive after all that? 

SGT. ANDY HILL, PHOENIX CITY POLICE DEPT.: You know, Lisa, it’s such a horrible story which often has a terrible ending.  In this case, we were very fortunate to find her alive because there have been many instances where this type of thing happens where the victim does not survive. 

DANIELS: What do you think kept her alive?

HILL: Well I think she’s a courageous young woman and other than the grace of God, she had a lot of fortitude and strength and there were a lot people that were looking for her.  Our officers worked diligently to find her each time they got a piece of information, and we’re very fortunate that we were able to get to her in time.

DANIELS: Now I know that the police visited the apartment three times where she was actually being hidden and held up.  What led you to that apartment? 

HILL: Well, after the report was made to the police department where in the area where she lived, some information made its way to the Phoenix Police Department and officers actually went out there to check on a missing runaway.  And as you know, there are so many missing and runaway children; we get a lot of reports that officers followed up on. 

But these officers took the time to look into it as best they could and actually write a report which was forwarded to a detective who looks into these type of situations and he then forwarded it to a couple of particular patrol officers that are very good at finding these runaways and they began to look when they had chances. 

As a matter of fact, we were in that apartment a couple of times.  We were able to look around.  We couldn’t find her because they had her hidden in a kind of a cutout box underneath a platform bed, which was covered with a plywood piece of wood.  And they were actually in there and she was already hidden in there, but was so afraid that she couldn’t talk at all about it.  She couldn’t say a word because she was afraid for herself and the fact that her family had been threatened with death as well. 

DANIELS: I mean it’s amazing that somebody can actually be in that box for too long.  Wouldn’t you think that she would suffocate being in there? 

HILL: Well eventually those officers came in the other night and actually left and then came back and actually separated the two suspects and were able to convince the female suspect to tell them about the case and that female suspect, Ms. Butler, said that she was afraid that she was going to run out of oxygen and that’s when the officers immediately went in and got her out of there.

DANIELS: But I mean in all of your years, have you ever seen a case as horrendous as this.  Think back in your many years.  I haven’t heard something like this. 

HILL: Well Lisa, I don’t have to think very long.  In 22 years of police work, working with a lot of different investigations and units, I have not seen anything quite like this.  A lot of the individual components that happen to people, gang rape, brain washing, torture, child prostitution, but to put them all together in this type of situation and include the fact that she was kept hidden in that box under the bed, I haven’t seen anything like that. 

DANIELS: I think a lot of viewers at home, Sergeant, are thinking why didn’t she make the phone call earlier.  If there was a cell phone there, couldn’t she sneak around and find the phone and call her parents?  What’s the psychological barrier that the people allegedly set up to prevent her from doing that? 

HILL: Well within hours of her first running away or being missing from home, she was kidnapped, she was bound, gagged, taken to another apartment and she was gang raped for hours.  That was her initial contact with those suspects.  Then for the next three days, periodically, she was put in that dog kennel. 

They beat her down physically, emotionally, and psychologically repeatedly until she totally gave up on life.  She felt that she was already dead, so the ability for her to respond at all, she was already numb.  It was very difficult.

Not only that, but they threatened to kill her.  At one point, they put a gun to her chest, asked her how she wanted to die and then pulled the trigger and the gun was empty.  Those are the types of things they did to her, so for 42 days, she suffered like that. 

DANIELS: I understand that she also thought that her family was being threatened, that her family would be harmed if she spoke out.  How real was that threat in her mind?

HILL: It was very real.  After having the gun put to her and the trigger pulled and being told repeatedly that she would die and her family would die, I can’t even imagine what went on inside of her.  She suffered horribly. 

DANIELS: And most importantly, how is she doing today?  Is she OK? 

HILL: You know I don’t really know.  I can imagine she feels lucky to be alive.  That’s what she told us.  She was happy to be rescued.  She was sobbing, but I do not know how she is today.  She’s back with her family and we all of course wish her well and hope for a recovery, but it’s going to be a long road for her I’m sure.

DANIELS: Well we hope that she’s doing OK after all that.  Obviously, it’s going to be a long road ahead for her.  Excellent police work by all of you, Sergeant Andy Hill.  You must be very proud that you really stuck with it and went back to the house many times and finally found what you were looking for.  Thanks so much, Sergeant.

HILL:  You're welcome, Lisa.  I’m real proud of our officers

Watch the 'Abrams Report' for more analysis and interviews on the top legal stories each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.