Police in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana have arrested three people suspected of enslaving and torturing a transgender woman.
The victim, whose name is being withheld, was discovered after she approached Assistant Robeline Police Chief Shelby Borders at a gas station. She claimed she had been shackled to a 35-foot-long chain in a storage unit behind a mobile home, and that she had been beaten and urinated upon.
“It was a shock to start with,” Chief Borders told The Alexandria Town Talk. “She stated she had been held captive. She was real frantic. There was a lot of fast talk. I had never seen anything to this extent before. My initial reaction was to focus on the needs at hand — make sure the scene was safe, see if anyone was following the victim and meet her medical needs.”
Authorities say that the victim, a woman in her early fifties who had just undergone a male-to-female transition, met David Rodriguez, Jr. and his wife Christina Harper online about two years ago. She agreed to move in with the couple shortly thereafter, but once she did, she was forced to perform daily chores — which included hard labor and humiliating sexual acts. If she refused, she was punished by Rodriguez or his friend, Ambre Lomas.
“They had built a 3-by-5 wooden box in the master bedroom at the floor of the bed,” said Det. Tim Key. “And this was her living conditions, where she slept every night.”
Rodriguez and Harper also gave her a “slave tattoo” and registered her as a slave on a website.
As to why the victim willingly agreed to move in with Rodriguez and Harper, police speculated that it could have been the isolation she felt after transitioning.
“The victim probably had some depression, going through the sex change, being disowned from the family” said Det. Carey Etheredge. “And whenever Rodriguez and Harper — those subjects know how to talk to them, how to prey on them, to make them feel comfortable, and make them think they’re coming to live a different life.”
When the victim stated her desire to leave, Det. Key said, her captors “became enraged. A 35-foot chain was put around her neck and she was locked up when she made that comment.” She was chained there, naked and without food or water for two days and nights. When she escaped, she took one of the suspect’s vehicle and eventually made contact with Chief Borders.
Natchitoches Sheriff Victor Jones said “[a]fter 30-something years of law enforcement in this area, this is one of the most gruesome deals that I’ve ever heard of. Never experienced anything like it before.”
Watch a report from KALB News Channel 5 below.
[“Hands With Chained” on Shutterstock]