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The Disappearance Of Kelsey Emily Collins

Kelsey Emily Collins had a harsh start in life. Born 1991 with a serious case of Hirschsprung’s disease, a birth flaw that affects one’s colon, Emily expended most of her first year of life in the hospital, where she received a multitude of life-protecting surgeries. Her mum, Sarah, never left her side. When Emily was two and a half, her mum divorced Emily’s father citing his heavy drinking. When Emily was almost four, Sarah wedded another man but he proved to be nasty, beating Sarah and her four kids, including Emily, regularly. Emily started having night seizures at age six, which did not halt until the family fled the house. Sarah worked in the genetics lab at a research hospital during this time and even though she had a job and salary, she still found it hard to leave the man she was wedded to. Then one day in 1998, Sarah woke her kids in the middle of the night and the family left their home- never looking back.

New Name Kelsey Emily Collins

Sarah and the children shifted to the west coast and took up residence in transitional housing for battered families. They resided there for 10 months while they altered all of their names and social security numbers before settling in the Seattle region when Emily was around 8 years old. Emily’s name was altered to Kelsey Emily Collins, but she still selected to go by her birth name, Emily.

Around the time the family settled in Washington, Sarah’s two older daughters, who were well into their teens, admitted to Sarah that their stepfather had assaulted them; this allegation landed the stepfather in prison for 22 years. By age 8 Emily was not just a victim of domestic turmoil, she also witnessed her sister’s sexual abuse as well as the riot inflicted on her siblings and mum at a very young age.

Hard Time For Kelsey Emily Collins

Even with their abuser in prison, Sarah said that she and her four children all had different difficulties that haunt them to this day. One of her daughters is a binge drinker, one isolated herself and started smoking marijuana at a young age, and Sarah’s youngest, a boy, suffers from separation anxiety, truancy, and substance abuse. The family attempted individual and family counselling, social workers, hospitalizations, and medications, but treatment was a long procedure that continues to this day.

As she grew Emily struggled academically and was plagued by low self-esteem. She attended special education classes at school, where she received speech therapy, services for her learning disability, as well as assistance with a crucial hearing impairment. It is doubtful if the deafness was from the abuse she underwent as a child or was something she was born with. School records indicated that by 10th grade, Emily was doing math at the 3rd-grade level and could barely read at the 5th.

Attacked

But unfortunately, the problems didn’t halt as Emily grew. When she was 11, she told her mum that a young teen boy around her age had attacked her, but unfortunately, there was not sufficient evidence to press charges. It was at this time that Emily’s life started to spiral downwards. By age 12, she was sexually active, started skipping class, drinking, and using drugs. At age 12 she stole her mum’s car and totalled it. Shortly after she was running away from home in short stints. At age 13, Emily stole a neighbour’s truck for a joyride and her family had to call the police – which started a two-year-long journey with the juvenile justice system. From age 13-15 Emily still skipped school and was always in trouble with the law. Around 2007, Emily started glimpsing an older boy, who was in his late teens. She was so enamoured with this new man in her life that she wrote his name over and over again on a sparkly blue poster and dangled it in her room. He purchased her flowers, shoes, and feasts and she thought him the excellent gentleman. But the new boyfriend was more than an honest crush. Soon he had persuaded Emily to work for him by selling drugs. This man’s individuality has never been made public, and it is uncertain if he was a minor or an adult at this time.

2007

In late 2007, despite selling drugs, Emily had governed to stay out of legal trouble for nearly one year. She was sixteen and a half. One day her boyfriend said her that they could make more wealth if she began doing a unique type of work. “I couldn’t believe he was wanting me to be a whore….the next thing I realized was” recalled Emily in rehab later. The relation forged between a pimp and an underaged victim is so unusual it has a name. It is called a trauma bond. It is a disastrous combination of violence, but also safety from other sex workers and pimps. It creates an odd dynamic where the young woman starts to see her pimp as giving life simply by not taking it. This appears to be what happened between Emily and her drug slinging “boyfriend.” This type of pact happens in other forms of abusive connections as well.

Picked By Police

From October to December of 2007, Emily was picked up by police five or six times for solicitation. Using a fraud name and age, she wandered the streets as “Lady Dollars” by night, and attended her high school classes at Mariner High School during the day. She performed a few stints in juvenile detention and one court-ordered rehab. Shortly her “boyfriend” introduced her to a relative of his, Donnico Tyrel Johnson, a man in his mid-30s.

Changes

Around this time Sarah began glimpsing changes in her daughter. Emily appeared frightened and sometimes came home with cuts and bruises, but Emily satisfied her they were from accidents, after school fights, and tiffs at the bus stop. She was unaware of what was occurring to her daughter. When Sarah eventually learned what her daughter was doing she was furious- and at a loss. “I missed all the signs,” she said. “I missed the fact that she was being compelled, manipulated & forced.” At that time I failed to discern the parallels between DMST and DV.” Sarah didn’t understand at the time that sex trafficking isn’t a lifestyle you just leave. Ernest Allen of NCMEC explains, “You can’t go home and have a happily ever after,” he told. “You can’t pick up where you left off in the ninth grade.” Sarah also likes to remember the public of an interesting statistic. It takes an average of “four attempts for an adult woman with a fully functioning brain” to leave a domestic violence circumstance. How many more times does it take a teenager with disabilities (such as Emily) to do a similar thing? But at this point, Sarah didn’t realize what to do.

2008

In early 2008 Johnson along with another pimp, a woman named Lisa Miles drove Emily to Portland. They had Emily call her mum and tell her she was touring friends for the weekend in Olympia when in truth they were scheming on selling the 16-year-old on the streets of Stumptown. Domenico bought her food, lingerie, and condoms and in return, Emily gave him the $1000-$1500 she could make nightly on the streets of Portland, Oregon.

It wasn’t long before Collins was caught after exiting a car in downtown Portland. She was reserved for prostitution, but there she met a unique officer. Detective Sgt. Doug Justus, head of Portland’s trafficking task force, clarified to Emily that she was a victim who couldn’t license to “dating” Johns. Rather than a stint in juvie, she could anticipate court-ordered rehab instead as Oregon tries to treat underaged sex workers like what they are- victims. It took a while, but over time Emily opened up. She told she was tired of the lying and told Justus everything- including the fact that she was a child and she was from Washington. She confessed that pimps and other girls sometimes whip her; a rival pimp had even cut her hand with a box cutter once. Officials called Sarah Collins who drove to Portland to retrieve her daughter and take her home to Everett.

Various months after Emily’s Portland arrest, Donnico Tyrel Johnson and Lisa Miles were both arrested for interstate sex trafficking of a small and were put in prison awaiting trial. Emily Collins, then 17, agreed to testify for the trial, but the case took 16 months before reaching a Grand Jury. Even though she was residing at home, on probation, and was attending outpatient rehabilitation, she was attracted back into the scene and proceeded to work the streets of north Seattle using the name “Lady Dollars” well into 2009.

Sarah Collins had motivated her daughter to testify and believed that the process might be healing. But Emily was scared- at one point she was chased by Johnson’s cousins who terrorized her violence for testifying- but she remained strong. “She sat outside the courtroom in the car and cried,” Sarah said. “She could’ve run at that point. She wasn’t in handcuffs. She didn’t though. She sat there and moaned on my shoulder and said ‘Mom I am scared.” Emily testified in front of the Grand Jury in Portland in April 2009 and Donnico Tyrel Johnson was prosecuted for interstate sex trafficking of a minor. Portland prosecutors told Sarah that her daughter “wasn’t in too much danger” now that Johnson was behind bars awaiting the case.

Sarah tried to get her daughter, still in high school, counselling to get her through the procedure of testifying but only a few weeks later Emily turned 18 and was no longer able for the services afforded to underaged victims. The red tape was just too much. And she proceeded to work Aurora Avenue North.

The disappearance

The Missing: Kelsey Emily Collins – THE MORBID LIBRARY
Credit: Morbid Library

About one month later on May 9th, 2009, as federal prosecutors schemed the trial against Johnson and Miles, Emily started seeing a new boyfriend, a man who lived in Seattle. On Sunday the 9th, Emily left her family home in Everett planning on taking either the Sound Transit #510 or Metro #101/358 into Seattle, but she never reached her boyfriend’s house. At the time Emily only had her cell phone, her MP3 player, her hairbrush, and a few dollars for bus fare stored in a small black purse. She took no clothes, toiletries, or savings with her. On May 10th, Sarah roused to discover her daughter had not come home. She phoned Emily’s boyfriend but he claimed she had never reached him. Sarah called her daughter’s phone but it went straight to voicemail. After a few days, Sarah reported Emily missing to Everett police.

Tragically, Emily’s birthday had just passed, and as adult police were uninterested in discovering her, particularly when they found her criminal record. They inferred that she would come home soon. Sarah was deterred from hanging missing flyers as federal prosecutors concerned that scrutiny surrounding the disappearance would hamper the case against Donnico Johnson and Lisa Miles. When prosecutors heard about Emily’s disappearance they were not initially anxious and told the Collins family that they didn’t think Emily was in danger due to being a witness. After all, she had never asked for witness protection or told prosecutors that she felt frightened; it doesn’t seem she ever even told prosecutors about Johnson’s family member’s threats.

But as the case inched nearer and no trace of Emily surfaced, law enforcement across two states, Washington and Oregon, started to look for Emily in earnest, months after she was last glimpsed. They found that Emily’s phone had started going to voicemail starting at 8 pm on May 9th, only 2 1/2 hours after she was last spotted leaving her home. Even though no one could get in contact with Collins after 8 pm on that day, her phone continued emitting signals in the Seattle region for the next two weeks, like someone was occasionally turning it on to check it. Emily’s boyfriend alleged she never reached Seattle as promised. Police initially concentrated most of their attention on this man as he wasn’t only Collin’s romantic partner, he was also potentially the last individual to glimpse her alive, an allegation he of course denied.

After a considerable investigation into Emilyriend and her family members, other avenues were looked into. Emily’s family has always conserved that Johnson’s family members or associates were to blame. Sarah even alleges that her daughter’s first boyfriend, the man who conned her into prostitution in the first place, was never deemed a suspect.

Five months after Emily was last glimpsed, charges against Donnico Tyrel Johnson and Lisa Miles were dropped and the search for Emily all but halted. According to Sarah, the inquiry didn’t begin until the trial was nearing which meant probable evidence and witness testimony was lost or ignored. The Collins sisters say that they felt that their sibling was utilized by prosecutors and thrown away like garbage.

Law enforcement of course sees the case in a different light. They illustrate that Emily Collins was not offered safety because she never begged for it. She never even said to anyone except her family that she had been terrorized by Johnson’s relatives. Moreover, Emily did frequently drop out of sight so her preliminary disappearance wasn’t out of the ordinary. And Sarah, although she alleges she knew something was wrong “right away”, didn’t report her daughter as missing for nearly a week, meaning significant hours were lost. As for focusing on her family and boyfriend, law enforcement states that they have to begin with the apparent suspects first. While they confess that it is possible, even probable that Emily met with foul play due to her part in the trial against Johnson, it is equally probable that someone she knew such as a customer, or even a random predator is to blame for Emily’s disappearance. Therey evidence a crime was even committed. Because of this detail, the Collins family was and is incapable to collect any victim’s compensation or take benefit of other social services afforded to the families of crime victims. But whatever occurred, criminal or not, an 18-year-old girl, the daughter of a loving mum, and sister to three adoring siblings with her whole life ahead of her vanished into the night never to be glimpsed again.

Aftermath

With the case against Miles and Johnson dropped, one might be worried that these two would be out on the streets again. Thankfully, both were indicted immediately for a similar crime, except this time the girl they were charged with trafficking was only 14 years old. (Some sources say 15). This girl came to be the star witness at trial. Like Emily, she was African American and was attracted to sex work at a very young age. She was given protection in exchange for her testimony and her words put Johnson and Miles in federal jail. The fact that these two predators were off the streets afforded little solace to the Collins family, who felt like Emily had been utilized by the similar system that she had once been in trouble with. They were furious that the other victim was given protection when Emily wasn’t.

Years have passed and still, Kelsey Emily Collins stays missing. Sarah Collins still works tirelessly to teach the public the truth of modern-day slavery and still attempts to keep her daughter’s case in the spotlight. But she has never been discovered. Here are some statistics on DMST.

According to Det. Justus, trafficking victims come from all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds… but that is not to tell that victims don’t have resemblances with one another. Justus says that nearly all children he encounters who are trafficked come from single-parent households, have low self-esteem, do poorly in school, and endure addiction issues, and/or cognitive issues. Pimps seek out kids who are easy to utilize.
Det. Justus explains DMST is like “Domestic Violence on steroids” many people cannot just leave as leaving just puts them at threat.
The enormous majority of children and adults who are sex trafficked are working in pimp-controlled prostitution. (US Department of Justice). They may go home or attend school when in these circumstances.
55% of children trafficked report regularly going to school while working for their exploiter. (The Refuge)
The largest risk factors for being trafficked as a youngster are homelessness and chronic running away.
1 in 6 children who run away from home often are ultimately sex trafficked (The Refuge)
16% of children who run away from group homes or foster homes are sex trafficked (The Refuge) Although some groups put this number much taller
4.5 million people in America work in the commercial sex trade, nearly 1 million of those are children. (The Refuge)
An approximate 400-500 children are working in the sex trade in King County alone at any given time.
The huge majority of people attracted to prostitution are US citizens. (US Department of Justice)
The normal female sex worker begins working the streets at age 15
27% of reported sex trafficking cases were familial trafficking with a parent or relative exploiting the child. (US Department of Justice)
In substantiated sex trafficking court cases the victims are 20% white, 35% black, 21% Hispanic, 4% Asian, 5% other, 16% not specified (US Department of Justice

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