06/13/2024

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James Paul Wilson and April Renee Lawrence (Anderson County Sheriff's Office)

‘Basically, their children were the currency’: Couple repeatedly trafficked daughter to elderly man for $20, police say

James Paul Wilson and April Renee Lawrence (Anderson County Sheriff’s Office)

A mother and father in South Carolina were arrested and stand accused of repeatedly trafficking their 14-year-old daughter to a man in his late 60s for a mere $20. James Paul Wilson and April Renee Lawrence were both taken into custody last month and are now facing felony human trafficking, authorities announced.

“I think there was a concerted effort by these parents to find people that would give them money, and basically, their children were the currency,” Detective Will Freestate of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office said in a video on Facebook.

According to the sheriff’s office, the investigation into Wilson and Lawrence began in early April, and investigators quickly made some chilling discoveries. Authorities say that the parents forced their daughter to travel across county lines at every request made by the older man, 67, whose name was not released.

“These two parents were basically bringing this little girl to this address in Greenville County, right across the county line, whenever this guy would ask,” Freestate said.

Investigators said that the 14-year-old victim and the man she was allegedly being trafficked to were known to each other because the 14-year-old girl was dating the man’s son.

Freestate said that Wilson and Lawrence would drive their daughter over to the man’s house where the man at least once was on a dirt bike with his son — the 14-year-old victim’s daughter. Freestate said the man would “kick his son off of the dirt bike and tell him to go inside.”

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    “The little girl told me that she didn’t want to go over there anymore, but her father would tell her she was going every time (the 67-year-old man) would text,” Freestate said, adding that every time the 67-year-0ld would text for the child to be brought over, he would send the victim’s parents $20.

    Authorities obtained and executed a search warrant for Wilson’s Cash App account and found that in about one month, he made between $1,300 and $1,400 “just from bringing his daughter back and forth” to the older man.

    Wilson and Lawrence are both being held in Anderson County Jail without bond, online records show.

    The sheriff’s office said that at least one more man took the couple up on their offer to traffic their daughter. That suspect, Willem Barendsen, was charged with one count of criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

    Freestate encouraged citizens to be vigilant about what they see and not to remain silent if they suspect parents are trafficking their children.

    “There are parents out there now that are doing the same thing. We just don’t know about it,” he said. “If you see something, say something.”

    The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to messages from Law&Crime seeking additional information on the case.

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