Kansas City Police Said Claims of Missing Black Women Were False, Then Victim Escapes Month-Long Abduction on the Same Street; ‘Other Young Ladies Didn’t Make It’

A Kansas City, Missouri, community activist says an abducted woman who escaped a home where she was held captive this month is one of several victims that have been ignored and abused in the Midwest city.

Bishop Tony Caldwell made a video last month calling on authorities to look into tips he received about young missing Black women in a neighborhood 30 miles outside of Kansas City. However, the Kansas City Police disputed the claims, calling them “completely unfounded.”

Yet, weeks later, a 22-year-old knocked on a neighbor’s door in the same area where Caldwell said he was told the women went missing.

Justice Gaston, founder of Reale Justice Network, told Atlanta Black Star Black women in Kansas City have minimal places of refuge when they become a victim of a crime because of a dismissive and abusive relationship with police.

Caldwell warned about a serial killer on the loose near Prospect Avenue in Kansas City. The bishop at Eternal Life Church & Family Living Center in Kansas City said he was “upset” and called on police and the community to “knock on doors.” However, the police department said there was “no evidence” to support the claims.

Yet, Excelsior Springs resident Lisa Johnson told KSHB 41 that she saw a young woman “hunched over” almost crawling to her front door on Oct. 7. The bruised, malnourished woman was wearing a dog collar and had ligature marks around her wrists and ankles, reports show.

Neighbors wrapped the woman in a blanket, gave her food and water and contacted authorities.

According to court documents, the Excelsior Springs Police Department responded to a call about “a female who showed up at the front door wearing a trash bag, metal collar with a padlock, and duct tape around her neck.”

The victim identified in court documents as T.J. showed authorities the house where she had been held against her will. Neighbors said she also mentioned friends who “didn’t make it” and were allegedly killed by the suspect.

“Upon the [police] officer’s arrival at the residence, they found T.J. She was wearing latex lingerie and had a metal collar around her neck with a padlock and duct tape around her neck. T.J. advised that a man by the name of Timothy picked her up on Prospect in Kansas City at the beginning of September 2022,” court documents show.

T.J. told authorities the man kept her in a small room in the basement that he had built. She broke free after he left that morning to take his child to school. It was about 30 miles outside of Kansas City off Prospect Avenue, which stretches across several miles from the city through suburbia near U.S. Route 71.

“That’s exactly what we were telling people. I’m just sorry that it took so long, but I’m grateful that she found a way out,” Caldwell said. “I’m sorry people didn’t act on it sooner, and it’s absolutely tragic that the other young ladies didn’t make it. It’s horrible.”

Timothy M. Haslett was arrested the same day and charged with first-degree aggravated rape, first-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault. T.J. told authorities that there are two more victims.

The Clay County Sheriff’s office said on Oct. 11 that it was still investigating the case along with Excelsior Springs and Kansas City Missouri Police departments. The law enforcement agencies have not confirmed whether they were able to identify other victims but said they will do “every investigative thing you can think of.”

“That thorough approach means it will take time. It will take time to analyze evidence recovered during the execution of the search warrant. It will take time to interview people involved,” Clay County Sherrif’s office said. “It will take time to use that information to see if the suspect, in this case, is connected to any more crimes.”

Haslett entered a not-guilty plea and is being held on a $500,000 bond.

The Kansas City Police Department told the Kansas City Defender that it is standing by its earlier statement that dismissed Caldwell and other community members’ concerns over the perpetrator. The local paper had posted Caldwell’s video on TikTok and removed it after the police department’s statement but scheduled a meeting with community leaders to assess the threat.

“We base our investigations on police incident reports of criminal activity. We do still maintain that there is no indication that what you guys reported was accurate and there was no indication that there was anything that supported that claim,” KCPD said.

“We share what information we can publicly, many times from the scene, of incidents of violent crimes when there is a report or an investigation underway, there had and has not been anything that corresponded to your reports on social media and the web which is why we refuted that report and said that the claims were unfounded,” the statement continued.

Gaston, a doula whose organization helps victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault, among other things, has been an activist in the Black community for the past three decades.

Data shows Kansas City is 22 percent Black. It is home to about 72,000 Black women, Gaston said. When one goes missing, the family’s first instinct isn’t to go to the police. She has been hearing about women being snatched on the major street as long as she has been doing the work. Her organization has helped some of them.

“A lot of people come to us because they don’t want to go to the cops, so we’ve helped people get their children back, all kinds of things,” she told Atlanta Black Star.

Often when Black girls go missing, the cases are not publicized by authorities because they are quickly labeled as runaways. Runaways don’t fit the criteria for an Amber Alert, an emergency broadcast about missing or endangered children, because authorities assume they’ve left on their own accord, she stressed.

“Those agencies don’t care enough to do what’s necessary, to do the little bit that they can to issue that alert, so that community and faults can be on the lookout for this particular child,” Gaston said.

The Kansas City Police Department shared photos of two teenagers listed as runaways around the same time of the woman’s disappearance.

Jayonna Brown, 17, was last seen on Sept. 9, and Jada White, who is 15, went missing on Sept. 19. Jada was found on Sept. 26. News report show Jayonna hasn’t been found. The police department posted her picture and physical description 11 days after she had already went missing. It has not been reposted since.

Gaston said some in instances, police officers are the ones exploiting Black women in the area. The activist describes the relationship between police and women in community as “sexual abusive.”

“I don’t even know another word to describe how they talk to us and look at us, and it’s like we’re just there for their pleasure in a sense – for the twisted pleasure,” she said.

The activist recalls seeing a video with handcuffed woman with her breasts exposed being verbal assaulted and sexually harassed by officers until a bystander intervened. She was never able to track down the woman, however.

Sex workers and other women are also blackmailed into sex by officers who threaten them with bogus charges, Gaston said.

“Some girls have been terrorized it seems like their whole teenage and adult life as some of these officers who sort of what I would call lay claim on them,” she said.

Reale Justice Network will hold an event Sunday in support of the woman who escaped in Excelsior Springs. They plan to write letters and hold a healing ceremony. Gaston hopes the national attention will bring about change in Kansas City and support for organizations that are stewards for the Black community.

“What would help us is that is if some of the resources that are spent on policing actually go to fund the work that we’re doing for our communities,” she said. “It’s been a long past time that BIPOC folks have a place that they can land if something happens.”

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