Focus on human trafficking leads police to murder suspect, life sentences

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The Fresno County District Attorney's Office is sharpening its aim at the people behind prostitutes. (KFSN)

The Fresno County District Attorney's Office is sharpening its aim at the people behind prostitutes, prosecuting pimps in hopes of breaking the chains.

"No little girl wakes up and decides she wants to work in the world of prostitution," said Debra Rush, co-founder of Breaking the Chains, which advocates for human trafficking survivors.

"What happens is they are coerced and manipulated."

A focus on human trafficking recently helped lead to an arrest in a high profile Fresno murder and a life sentence for a repeat offender.

Herbert Goodwin had a prior conviction for pimping a minor. He was on parole, and he had to wear a GPS device. But none of that kept him from finding another girl and forcing her to work to make him money -- by whatever tactic.

"She was in possession of her mother's remains at the time she met him," said prosecutor Miiko Anderson. "And that was something he used. He took possession of them and kept them from her because he felt she would not leave as long as he had possession."

Anderson prosecuted Goodwin and she leads a new human trafficking unit in the DA's office. She says law enforcement focused for years on just the johns and prostitutes.

"But then when you peel it back a little bit you realize there's force, there's violence," she said.

Sometimes the violence is adjacent to the trafficking.

Action News uncovered a search warrant revealing how a human trafficking investigation helped police find Angel Morelos, the teenager accused of shooting and killing Christopher Leon during a botched robbery at a southeast Fresno jewelry and stereo store.

While Morelos was a wanted man, Fresno's vice officers believe Tyler Brown created an online ad to pimp out a 16-year-old girl, who happened to be the shooting suspect's girlfriend.

Police caught Morelos shortly after the vice team tracked down the girl at a Visalia hotel room.

Brown is now facing felony charges and a significant sentence.

Human trafficking survivor and advocate Debra Rush says the new, victim-centered focus and stronger punishments could save lives.

"It brings hope that there's going to be lasting change because these guys are going to know that we're not playing and that this is not a slap on the wrist," Rush said. "They have robbed lives from women and children for years and their lives will be taken as well."

Rush says just talking about human trafficking can help reduce it, especially at times like next month when a judge will sentence Herbert Goodwin to life in prison with no parole hearing for 36 years.

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Human TraffickingprostitutionFresno
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