What led sheriff’s investigators to a shed in the Mojave Desert this weekend, where a 13-month-old girl sat in a car seat, baking in the summer heat, unspooled Monday as a case of prostitution, human trafficking, drugs and violence.
One of the two men arrested on suspicion of assaulting the baby’s mother and kidnapping the baby, Brandon Wynn, was actually a pimp, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The sex worker Wynn allegedly exploited and manipulated is the baby’s mother, an unidentified 40-year-old woman, sheriff’s officials said.
In the predawn hours of Saturday, the woman and her daughter, Penelope Rodriguez, were at a Motel 6 in Palmdale. At some point, the mother was assaulted and kidnapped herself, sheriff’s officials said, and taken to the desert.
The motive for the assault is retribution for the use of illegal drugs and stolen money, sheriff’s investigators told KTLA-TV Channel 5.
About 6:30 a.m., sheriff’s deputies were called to a Lake Los Angeles home where the baby’s mother had run.
“She was naked,” sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Owen told KTLA-TV. “She apparently ran anywhere from one mile to three or four miles, out in the desert. The first house she came to, she knocked on their door and sought help.”
An Amber Alert was issued after the mother told authorities that the baby was also abducted. The mother told investigators the name of her assailant, whom she said drove a 2001 brown BMW sedan.
One problem: the mother gave false information, thwarting investigators in order to protect her pimp, sheriff’s officials said.
The ruse was the result of sustained abuse, which created a “trauma bond” between the woman and her pimp -- which is a common pattern in human trafficking, officials said.
The sheriff’s human exploitation and trafficking unit was assigned to the case and helped investigators identify the suspect. Wynn was arrested in Palmdale after deputies spotted his blue Ford Contour.
A 16-year-old boy was also arrested and is charged in connection with the kidnapping and assault. Because he is a juvenile, his name was not released.
Wynn, 33, told investigators that the baby was in the shed. About 3 p.m., investigators found Penelope Rodriguez tucked in the car seat in the shed and suffering from dehydration and heat exposure.
The girl was taken to a hospital and released Saturday into the care of the county’s Department of Children and Family Services.
Wynn and the 16-year-old boy have been charged with attempted murder, officials said. Investigators said additional charges are likely, including human trafficking, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, child abuse and robbery.
Wynn is being held in lieu of $1-million bail.
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