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Girl, 8, testifies against father accused of sex trafficking her in exchange for drugs

New Mexico father James Stewart is on trial for allegedly forcing his then-7-year-old daughter into prostitution to support his drug habit. (Screenshot: KRQE)
New Mexico father James Stewart is on trial for allegedly forcing his then-7-year-old daughter into prostitution to support his drug habit. (Screenshot: KRQE)

A man who was reportedly convicted of child abuse in 2009 has now been charged with forcing his 8-year-old daughter into prostitution. This week, the daughter provided details of the sexual assault in a two-hour testimony.

On Tuesday, days before a New Mexico judge declared a mistrial based on a “prejudicial” testimony by the tween’s grandmother, reported KOB 4, James Stewart listened to his daughter tell an Albuquerque courtroom how she was treated by himself and her mother, Teri Sanchez, both of whom were arrested in May, according to KRQE. Stewart is charged with promoting prostitution, child abuse and human trafficking, for which he pleaded “not guilty.”

Authorities began investigating last spring, when the girl kept coming to school covered in dirt and urine.

Collin Brennan, the assistant attorney general who is prosecuting Stewart was not available to answer questions when called for comment by Yahoo Lifestyle. According to KRQE on Monday, Brennan said in court, “There’s going to be testimony from witnesses that they witnessed hickeys on the girl. We’ll talk about instances where she’d actually show up to school in high heels and makeup.”

Defense attorney Stefanie Gulley, who could not be reached for comment by Yahoo Lifestyle, argued, “Ladies and gentlemen, my client is not guilty of any of these charges and the state’s not going to have any evidence for you,” according to the Albuquerque Journal. “And frankly anybody who’s a parent should be concerned that anybody could bring these charges against any parent.”

On Tuesday, the girl told the court that her father forced her to steal money. “They wanted me to put baby powder on my hands because they said my hands were the smallest because they wanted me to steal wallets,” she said, according to KRQE.

She also explained how her parents allegedly used drugs, reportedly saying, “They used to rip out a sheet of paper, rip it again to make it the right length-thing, then they used to put the weed in, then they used to wrap it, then light it.”

Representatives of the Albuquerque Police Department and the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s records request. A criminal complaint retrieved by the Albuquerque Journal quoted the girl saying she was forced to touch her father’s friends for “weed and pipes and stuff.” She allegedly told the interviewer, “I keep saying I don’t want to, but he… forces me to.”

The New Mexico Office of the Attorney General visited Stewart’s storage shed and found girls’ underwear containing “three different male DNA detections… one being of the defendant” reported the Albuquerque Journal. Gulley maintains the DNA samples are too small to be significant.

In May, KRQE reported that both the Albuquerque Police Department (which did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s multiple records requests) and the Children, Youth, and Families Department (the latter of which could not be reached by Yahoo Lifestyle) learned of concerning behavior from Stewart and Sanchez. “I think there are stops we could’ve and should’ve taken to better protect this little girl and her brother,” spokesperson Monique Jacobson told the station.

The agency had 21 meetings with Sanchez and 14 with Stewart, after receiving information that the couple’s three children were possibly being neglected, says KRQE. Half a dozen calls were reportedly made to the police department, one regarding alleged sexual abuse.

Stewart’s new trial is scheduled for Apr. 1st.

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