Police: St. Louis vacation rental was sex trafficking headquarters

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ST. LOUIS – Authorities say they’ve broken up a sex trafficking operation inside a short-term rental home. The alleged victim is from Tennessee, where a relative helped uncover the dark secret.

The quiet street corner at Michigan Avenue and Halliday Avenue, located in St. Louis’ Tower Grove East neighborhood, was swarmed with police over the lunch hour this past Friday afternoon.

Denny Reinheimer said, “They were carrying, it looked like, assault rifles, and they all converged on the one house.”

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It happened right next to the Reinheimers, who were on alert and almost forgot they were expecting a package delivery.

Karen Reinheimer said, “He knocked on the door, and we thought it was the police. We didn’t know if we were going to have to leave or what.”

St. Louis police say they found a Tennessee woman being sold for sex out of a vacation rental home next door.

We reached out to the host of the short-term rental, who told us that his protocols helped police make arrests in the case. That includes obtaining the identification of the person who rented the property.

Martavis Walker is now charged with six felony counts, including kidnapping, rape, and sex trafficking.

Court records say Walker forced the victim to St. Louis from Nashville and threatened to kill her if she tried to escape, while reportedly working with two others to post escort ads.

A probable cause statement says the victim’s aunt in Tennessee found the ads and called police, who obtained a search warrant that led to the arrests.

Retired St. Louis County Sgt. Adam Kavanaugh commented, “I’ve had several cases where parents have called and found their loved ones online.”

Sgt. Kavanaugh did not investigate this case but worked many others in his 29 years with both St. Louis City and County. He’s currently a law enforcement liaison for Crisis Aid International.

Kavanaugh said, “A lot of the abuse of our children is occurring online. It’s becoming normalized. They’re getting sexually abused online, which translates to ultimately meeting their trafficker online.”

He trains parents, teachers, and police on identifying victims who sometimes begin by taking nude pictures –”uploading them to sites like YouTube, Instagram, stuff like that – at 5 years old. 5 and 6 years old, they’re already doing that. So, when do you start talking to them? You start talking to them before you hand them the device.”

Court records do not yet indicate how the alleged crimes began that led to the South St. Louis operation, nor the age of the alleged victim. Three defendants accused in the investigation are being held without bond.

Visit the Crisis International Aid webpage for resources on combating trafficked and exploited children.


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