A Texas teenager faces capital murder charges however, her parents say she is the victim, not the suspect.
What we Know:
- Zephaniah “Zephi” Trevino, a junior from Grand Prairie High School, has been in custody for a year at the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center without bond. She and two other men, Phillip Baldenegro (19) and Jesse Martinez (20), are charged with capital murder and face 40 years for a May 2019 robbery resulting in one injury and one murder. Each is awaiting trial. According to his attorney, Baldenegro was released from jail on a reduced bond this past Tuesday. Martinez is being held at the Dallas County Jail on a $1 million bond.
- Her parents claim she is the victim of sex trafficking and should be released. They have hired national civil rights and criminal defense attorney, Justin A. Moore, and Dallas based criminal defense attorney Ashkan Mehryari as her attorneys.
- Baldenegro’s attorney, David Finn, claims that his client never sold Trevino for sex and that it was Trevino that set up the robbery that happened on the night in question. Finn maintains that Baldenegro and Trevino were in a romantic relationship and Trevino was at the apartment to have sex with two adult men.
- Both Trevino’s and Baldenegro’s attorneys agree that Baldenegro shot and killed the 24-year-old victim and Trevino was present during the act.
- The then 16-year-old played soccer, volleyball, and softball had just made the drill team and was involved in her church. Her mother, Crystal Trevino, says that all stopped when she started hanging out with the wrong people.
- According to her parents, when Trevino was 15, she had a boyfriend that introduced her to drugs and abused her. When the two broke up, Trevino “never fully recovered from the trauma.” Her mother says she became anxious and depressed, faced self-esteem issues, and even ran away at times.
- Trevino was approached by Baldenegro on social media. She introduced him to her parents as a friend. Baldenegro told her parents that he was 17 and knew her from school. They later found out that was actually 18 at the time and did not attend Trevino’s high school at all.
- In the beginning of their association together, Trevino’s parents saw no signs of trouble from Baldenegro. After some time, the situation shifted. According to Trevino’s parents, it started with her coming home late and quickly escalated to Trevino not coming home for days at a time and returning in foreign clothes, apparently drugged, and starved. There were times that Trevino would randomly call and warn her family to lock all the doors and make sure the house was secure, her parents believe these were her attempts to protect her family from threats made by Baldenegro.
- On August 4, 2019, Trevino told her parents she was going to the mall with friends. After hours of not hearing from her and not being able to track her phone, Trevino came home and went straight to bed, waking up near noon the next day to cry on her mothers shoulder.
- That night Trevino didn’t go to the mall, she actually went with Baldenegro and Martinez to a Grand Prairie apartment. The three lured two men to the apartment with Trevino’s help, according to police, and ambushed and robbed them. An altercation with the two adults resulted in Baldenegro shooting both men, injuring one and killing the other.
- The Trevino family maintains that Baldenegro and Martinez forced Trevino to lure the men into the room with sex.
- The family is receiving support from Jason Flom, a founding board member of The Innocence Project who has worked in criminal justice advocacy for over 25 years, and Sanctuary for Families, a non-profit that assists victims of sex trafficking and abuse. Faith In Texas, a grassroots social justice organization, will also be assisting in advocating for Trevino’s parents. Kim Kardashian West has taken to Twitter to advocate for the case as well.
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) July 30, 2020
- Many professionals that assist victims of sexual trafficking, and recovered victims of trafficking alike, have stepped up to speak out on Trevino’s behalf. They have given examples of similar cases of a “relationship gone bad” that turned out to be, in fact, sex trafficking. They call the assailant a “romeo pimp” – someone that appears to care for their victim romantically but slowly transitions them to be sexually exploited by other people.
- Even though minors that are sexually exploited for financial gain are considered victims by federal law, the state of Texas is one of the few states that does not have a statute of protection for sex trafficking victims that may face charges on a crime committed while they were being trafficked.
- Regardless of the claims of Trevino, her family, her attorneys, former victims, and professionals, the District Attorney, John Creuzot, is still pursuing capital murder and aggravated battery charges.
- According to her father, Henry Trevino, she has not received any counseling even though she reported herself as a victim of trafficking. Under Texas’ Trafficked Persons Program statute, this should not be the case.
The family has been raising money to aid in legal fees. To donate, visit here.