CHICAGO (CBS) — The mother of a 16-year-old girl who was allegedly beaten and strangled by a man she met on Backpage.com, after having run away from home, has set her sights on the website.
Desiree Robinson’s mother, Yvonne Ambrose, was at the Markham Courthouse on Tuesday for the arraignment of 32-year-old Antonio Rosales, charged with murder in Robinson’s death.
“I want justice for Deisree, for all the young women and girls like her,” Ambrose said.
Prosecutors have said Rosales met Robinson through an ad for escorts Backpage.com, and had sex with her in a truck on Christmas Eve 2016.
“The defendant admitted that he had no money for a second encounter, and he tried to negotiate an additional free 15 minutes,” Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said in December. “The victim refused his offer and insulted him. Afterward, he punched her in the face and strangled her as she tried to call for help.”
Robinson was found dead in a garage in the 16200 block of South Hamlin Avenue in Markham two days later.
An autopsy determined Robinson was beaten, cut, and strangled.
Robinson’s family said they believe she might have fallen victim to a youth sex trafficking ring, and was featured on Backpage.com, which has been the target of multiple sex trafficking investigations.
“Desiree was brought to the defendant’s home by two people – a man and a woman – unknown to her family, for the purposes of having sex,” said attorney Gina Arquilla DeBoni, who is representing Ambrose. “Desiree was a victim of sex trafficking, and was featured in a post on Backpage.com.”
DeBoni said her office is conducting its own investigation on the family’s behalf, and expects to file a civil lawsuit.
After Rosales’ arraignment on Tuesday, Ambrose said she wants more answers, and is demanding a broader investigation of the events leading to her death.
“It could happen to anybody’s family, and we just want to try to protect our children. My life is now dedicated to making sure that this same awful situation doesn’t happen to another teenager out there again,” she said.
Backpage recently closed its adult advertising section, and replaced it with a message that says “censored,” after a U.S. Senate report accused the website of facilitating child sex trafficking.
A 53-page Senate subcommittee report alleges the site “sanitized” ads for prostitution and child sex trafficking, by editing out words like “teen” or “Lolita,” which made it clear ads were about illegal sex.
Backpage has denied the allegations in the subcommittee report, and said it shut down its adult section to protest censorship.