ABILENE, Texas — Child sex trafficking cost one Texas teen her life and now her mother is breaking her silence.
Jennifer Diamond said her 17-year-old daughter, Mikayla Mitchell, ran with the wrong crowd who promised her a lavish lifestyle.
Diamond didn’t understand how bad it was until it was too late.
Mitchell was trafficked in West Texas.
“It cuts me like a knife to think of her out there being used like that.” Diamond said. “I was naive because you think of your little girl as your little girl. You don’t think about them being mixed up with grown men.”
Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force investigator John Graham spoke with Mitchell on July 10, after she escaped from her kidnappers at a convenience store in Merkel.
Mitchell told investigators she escaped when her kidnappers stopped for gas. She ran into the convenience store and told the cashier she needed help.
“Mikalya reported that she had been assaulted. Subsequent interviews with her later indicated that she was taken by force by an unknown black male from the Midland-Odessa area,” Graham said.
Mitchell’s mother picked her up in Abilene and they returned home to Sherman.
One week later, Mitchell was found dismembered floating in a pond in Dallas.
“The detective said, ‘ma’am your daughter is dead.’ I started screaming and screaming at the top of my lungs, no,” Diamond said. “I just loved her so much and I would do anything to get her back.”
“Extreme level of violence had been committed against Mikayla,” Graham said.
After her death, investigators with the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office conducted a forensic exam of her phone. They located it at an AT&T store in Abilene after a Good Samaritan turned it in. Not knowing his connection to the case at the time, the sheriff’s office asked for the public’s help to identify the man in the surveillance video. After KTXS aired the story, the sheriff’s office got in touch with the Good Samaritan.
“There was evidence (on the phone) that Mikayla was being involved in child sex trafficking [and] engaging in high-risk behavior,” Graham said. “We were able to obtain images [and] locate the exact hotel where those images originated from.”
Darnell Dwight Smith is a person of interest in the case, but he has not been charged. He was sentenced last month to federal prison for dealing large amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
In July, KTXS reported Mitchell’s stepfather was arrested four days before she turned up in Abilene. Police said he had no role in her sex trafficking case, but he is facing federal charges for the death of seven patients, including one in Abilene. He was indicted on July 6 for prescribing pills for no medical reason, resulting in the overdose deaths of at least seven people. He is also accused of Medicare fraud. Although investigators don’t believe Mitchell’s stepfather was involved in her kidnapping or murder, he is facing a charge of domestic violence for allegedly abusing her months earlier.
Abilene Police Detective Elise Ybarra was also involved in Mikayla Mitchell’s case. In August, she was taking Mitchell’s cell phone to another detective when a vehicle collided into hers. She and two other detectives were on their way to a Crimes Against Children Conference in Dallas when a vehicle ran into theirs on I-20 in Clyde. Ybarra was killed in that crash.
Graham encourages parents to talk with their children because no mother should have to go through what Diamond is dealing with.
“[Children are] getting something out of it and they don’t know the dangers that they’re dealing with,” Graham said.
Click here to find out what warning signs to look for and how to keep your child safe. If you are a you are a victim of sex trafficking, you can get help by calling local law enforcement.