Zappy Trevino was a normal teenage girl growing up outside of Dallas, Texas, with a life that revolves around family, church and softball. When he got to high school, though, a boyfriend introduced her to drugs and then broke her heart. Then 19 year old Philip, all the Negroes swooped in through social media to prey on this vulnerable high school sophomore called the Negro, introduced himself to Zoe's parents as a friend of CEP's from school, and soon used psychological manipulation, violence and intimidation to drag zappy into the dark underworld of sex trafficking.
Alarming changes in his behavior prompted Henry and Crystal Trevino to install a tracking app on their daughter's phone. But this didn't stop all the Negro from using Zippy's body and her misery for his profit. Then, on August 3rd, twenty nineteen two men were lured to an apartment with the promise of sex with Saffy. The men were robbed instead by Ball, the Negro and an accomplice, and a fight broke out, resulting in Balde Negro shooting and killing one of the would be child rapists.
This is going to be a first for this podcast's, an interview that takes place before trial, before a grave mistake is made, where I speak with Zippy's lawyer, Justin Moore, and her mother, Crystal Trevino, zappy is currently out of juvie awaiting trial while the Dallas County district attorney tries to charge her for her sex traffickers crime compounding what has already been an unbelievably tragic experience by potentially sending zappy to spend the rest of her life in prison. This is wrongful conviction with Jason Plock.
Welcome back to Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom, that's me, I'm your host, of course, and today we are going to be selling a story that is happening in real time and beyond.
That is a story that is so disturbing. I think that anyone who's a parent, while they may be hard to hear, it's something that you need to hear. They're going to be action steps at the end of it and the things we can do to make a difference. We're going to be telling the story today of a young teenage girl named Jeffrey Trevino, who was sex trafficked, then rebuilt, demised by the authorities at a time when they should have and I believe did know better.
First, I want to introduce to you an emerging giant in the defense community, Justin Moore, who is effused lawyers here. So, Justin, welcome to wrongful conviction. Thank you, Jason. And today with us is one of the most courageous and strong women I've ever had the privilege to know is Effie's mom, Krystal Trevino, who's here. So, Crystal, thank you for being here with us today.
Thank you so much, Jason. So this is a story of a young girl from I'm going to call it a normal family. Right? Whatever normal is, this is a nuclear family in a town in Texas outside of Dallas. This took place in Grand Prairie, Texas, which is between Dallas and Fort Worth, just a suburb city.
Tell us about Zafari growing up and about the family's situation prior to this disastrous chain of events.
Like you said, we're we're a normal family. She was into sports and softball, specifically volleyball. She loves music. She loves to sing. She was just kind of one of those kids that people were drawn to, very charismatic, laughing, having fun and really supported by her siblings. You know, she has three older siblings, two sisters and a brother, their church family in the community. My husband and myself, softball coaches. So just what I would consider everybody's normal family.
And as she entered into high school, a young man, her freshman year introduced her to drugs and the toxic relationship and salsify struggle with that. Her freshman year going into her sophomore year, which was her 16th birthday year. We saw so many changes and not just physically, mentally starting to have a lot of anxiety and withdrawal from her family and to see her sleep a lot and see her lose weight. And just what I would consider vulnerable, you know, she was trying to overcome all these things that had happened from the previous boyfriend.
And we didn't realize that she meets Philip through social media. May of twenty nineteen. We met Philip in our home. When we met him, he just did not seem the type of person that Zephaniah would normally be associated with. Very quiet, very strange. She didn't introduce him as her boyfriend, just as a friend, and asked how they knew each other. He said through school and also said that he was 17 at the time. My daughter was 16.
So of course we're talking about 19 year old Philip called the Negro who had already, I guess, identified her as a potential target and was already sort of using the various mind games and other coercive tactics to sort of draw her into his web. You know, the way this thing unraveled, it reminds me as much as anything of the movie Cape Fear with Robert De Niro, because this involved the Negro character, you know, began keeping zappy out all hours of the night.
The Trevino's, to their credit, Henry and Crystal installed the tracking app on her phone because they obviously knew that things were not right with this new person in her life. Little could they have known just how bad it was. But then one night, she didn't come home at all. The tracking app was deleted and her phone had been turned off.
You know, we had the life three sixty app for kids on there that turns off social media and tracks. But when it's deleted, you know, your hands are tied. They communicated through text. And I always thought that it was my daughter texting. I can't even say that for sure now that it wasn't him texting saying that the movie was over and that they would be home after eating a small bite and and then she's gone. It was investigated as a missing persons case.
She came home two days later, hadn't eaten anything. It was she was wearing clothes that had not been provided to her by the family. So all the alarm bells are going off.
You know, my gut was she was on drugs and to see your child decline the one. That she did it was very hard to understand what was going on because it was happening so fast. What did you do at that point and what could you advise other parents to do in that situation?
You know, you're trusting and I'll say this, Jason, that, you know, I worked in a school district, so I always saw kids differently, I guess, in my eyes. So I never wanted to just point blank be like, this kid is no good. But I look back on it now and I think I felt it. I knew it. And so as a parent, if your gut is telling you this is not a good thing, this is not a good idea, they shouldn't have gone out to the movies.
Go with your gut feeling. I'm not sure what could have been done other than for parents, I would suggest be on that social media, on their phones, do whatever you can. And I hate to say this, but they don't have privacy. Do whatever you have to do to protect your kid.
The predator that entered my daughter's life looked like the normal teenage person and was able to manipulate, threatened, change her, change everything that was happening in our life and in her life at the time, what I understood sex trafficking to be totally different than what has happened in our family. I always pictured the movie Taken where your kid is kidnapped and taken across countries. And it's happening right here, right here in America, right here in Texas. And it can happen to any young girl that's vulnerable or is trusting a young boy.
And we know now that this was a very violent guy. And this is, I think, a tactic that is not uncommon, which is that the trafficker will, once they identify and they coerce their victim into this web, they will then use threats of violence or actual violence against them, but also against their family. So they put the child in an impossible situation where they're saying, look, if you try to run away or you try to tell the authorities about us or whatever, we're going to harm your family, we might kill your family.
And when you're sitting there in that situation and you recognize that this is a person who is capable of extreme violence, in fact, you're on the receiving end of it. There's every reason that you should take those threats seriously. And that's exactly what Zeph was experiencing. And then things got really insane. On August 3rd, two thousand nineteen at around four thirty pm, twenty four year old Carlos Morio and another man went to an apartment on the three hundred block of Northeast Fifth Street in Grand Prairie, Texas.
They were lured there by the promise of sex with Zevi, called the Negro and an accomplice, Jesse Martinez, surprised and robbed them in a fight broke out, resulting in both the Negro shooting and killing Wario. And I do want to turn to you, Justin, if you can explain how this turned into what it turned into with Zeph being charged with capital murder for a shooting that no one claims that she committed. No.
One, when the Trevino's reached out to me and they explained the details of this case, it was something that really grabbed me immediately.
And I can't speak to specifics because I'm bound to confidentiality laws regarding minors. But what I can't talk about are the facts that are incontrovertible at the moment. What we do know is that Balde Negro has admitted to being the shooter. And we do know that the two men, that one of which was murder, but the other one that was assaulted by Balde Negro and his accomplice, they were there to purchase sex from a minor child. You know, these facts are incontrovertible.
Everybody knows that these are the facts. There's not one person on any side of this that claims that she shot a gun out of the gun. I mean, here's a young girl in a place that she's not in of her own free will. And then a dispute breaks out in the middle of a robbery that results in a murder. So what was she supposed to do, put on some sort of superhero cape and try to stop them? I mean, she was there because she was in the process of being kidnapped and she was being held there so that somebody could make money by selling her body.
And I hate saying it. I hate hearing myself say it, but that's what it was. So then this murder takes place and zappy a victim, a child sex trafficking victim is now being charged as a perpetrator.
What has been widely reported was that he was in pre-trial custody in the Dallas County juvenile facility for a year awaiting trial and obviously that spilled into the covid-19 pandemic. I definitely want to commend you, Jason. A lot of the attention that you brought this case allowed for Zeph to be released pre-trial along with the legal work, too. But I actually got word about this from Crystal and Henry, ZFS parents, the Dallas district attorney's office is actually trying to certify her as an adult.
So if she gets certified as an adult, she's going to be facing life in prison. If she takes this to trial and God forbid, loses a trial, she's facing conviction as an adult for being a victim. It's a failed social policy in which we allow a young child who's been victimized severely to be placed in this position, to be doubly victimized by the criminal justice system.
She was 16. She was a child. There were four grown men in that place. She was the only one that was a child. She is a victim. She was being sex trafficked. She did not pull the trigger. She did not beat them. She did not steal anything. I really have a hard time understanding why my daughter is in this situation. Any time I read about a state trying to decide whether to try a child as an adult who gets to decide whether a child is an adult, is that like the.
Deciding whether up is down a child is a child when you're 16, you don't know shit about anything, the world is still a mystery. So how does the state of Texas get to even say under a broad legal principle just and that that this child is an adult?
We've decided that she's an adult as a general principle, as a broad legal principle states, especially the state of Texas, that can try as hard as an adult when it comes to the severity of the crime, or if the child through a diagnostic exam is shown themselves to a mental type of nature, that implies some level of criminality that goes up and beyond what a child should exhibit. I mean, I think it's very abstract stuff. At the end of the day, children or children, if you're under the age of 18, you can't contract to do anything with your life.
You need a parent's consent. But yet when it comes to the criminal justice system, they completely ignore this element when it comes to the mental state or the mens rea of a young child. So as a broad principle, I mean, it's well settled that children can be tried as adults in certain contexts. But practically speaking, I think this policy should be eradicated from society. I mean, know also you have to look at the legacy of racism when it comes to trying children as adults.
I mean, it comes from this notion of typically back in Jim Crow era in which the criminal justice system endeavoured to try young black men as adults to answer for crimes and a very serious way that provided retribution or some type of blood lust.
One of the cases that haunts me is the case of George Stinney Jr.. Right. George Stinney Jr., of course, he was found innocent years and years later in nineteen forty four, was a 14 year old boy who was charged with murdering two little white girls. His trial took two hours. The jury deliberated for ten minutes and he was executed. He had to sit on a fucking telephone book because he was so small in order for them to even electrocute him.
And of course, he has been exonerated, but a lot of good that. So that goes right back to your point. That's that that's grotesque history of treating children like adults in our criminal legal system. There's no other place in society where a 16 year old is considered an adult. The fact that we have a young child who was a victim of sex trafficking now possibly being exposed to life in prison, I just don't understand why that's the policy here, that I understand why Dallas County is pursuing this.
You know, we had public defenders at the very beginning of this case and they told us she's not being certified as an adult. She is certified as a juvenile. So fast forward a year. How do you determine someone was a child then and an adult then? And no one has been able to answer that for me. If you're 16, you're 16, you're a child. How do you say she's an adult? I don't understand that.
You want a certified child sex trafficking victim as an adult. It's almost perverted in a way. It's almost. You're saying that, no, she was actually voluntarily selling herself for sex. And we know as children you can't even enter a contract for anything at a at that age. So I don't want to sound like a broken record, but no child can enter into a contract, especially a sex contract with certifying them as an adult. Kind of counteracts that well settled legal principle.
Where are we now and what can people do about it? I think people can join in the advocacy that you have been doing and other folks, other thought leaders in the space have been joining in on getting the word out and lifting our voices and showing the powers that be here in Dallas County that this isn't right is going to be a very important element of assisting Sophie in overcoming these charges to donate to the legal defense. Go to directly to Doug. There's also a petition that you can sign on change, dawg, and there's a form letter to the D.A. that you can sign on Action Network, Doug, and of course, follow the hashtag free zaffar on Instagram.
You can also get updates from me at its Jason Pflaum. That's my Instagram and it's Jason Pflum. We'll have all of these action steps linked in the bio pressure breaks, pipes. And Jason, thank you for everything that you've done. We really, really appreciate this interview. We appreciate the support. You know, Selena Gomez, Kim Kardashian, Santoya Brown, who herself has gone through a tremendous story of her own. Everyone that has supported Effie since they've heard this story, there are many other victims that are out there.
They need a voice. They need help. Every voice, every post, Instagram letter, written phone call, all of those things help not only Zephaniah, but the legal system. Kind of take a closer look at what's happening, especially here in Texas, and to help the D.A. recognize the truth of this case. It's almost like we're so ashamed as a country that this actually goes on, that we don't even talk about it. And I'm glad you mentioned Santoya, Lisa Montgomery.
Of course, there's a wonderful story, the flip side of a woman named Tara Simmons, a dear friend of mine who was sex trafficked as a young teenage girl, was in prison and now has ended up graduating at the top of her class from the University of Washington Law School and is now an elected representative in the state of Washington. And I'm so freakin proud of her. And I hope that the future is going to look, you know, as bright for Zef and that she's going to get through this.
Hopefully, the district attorney will drop the charges and basically acknowledge that this was a mistake. So now we turn to the closing of our show, which is, I think, the best part every week. It's my favorite part. It's a part we call closing arguments. First of all, I thank each of you. Justin Moore, defense attorney and social justice advocate, thank you for being here. And Crystal Trevino, thank you for showing us all what courage looks like.
And and now I get to turn my microphone off and leave my headphones on and just listen as each of you can share your thoughts on anything you want to share your thoughts on. And just and let's have you go first, if that's OK and save Krystle for last.
Thank you, Jason. I mean, in conclusion, I think this case is the canary in the cave. Sex trafficking is pervasive throughout our society, and sex trafficking, including minors, is equally pervasive. If we want to put it into this, we have to start with the criminal justice system and how it treats victims that are placed in these precarious positions. The criminal justice system endeavours not to acknowledge that victimhood. We're going to further stigmatize these folks who are involved in ensnared in these trauma bonds with these traffickers.
And we're not going to empower them to step up and speak out about the abuse if they are a part of. So we need people to advocate for a criminal justice system that has compassion, but also nuance when it looks at sex trafficking victims. Until we have that, this is going to continue to be an issue and we need to start protecting folks who can't protect themselves. Krystal, hello again.
Thank you for giving us this opportunity to speak Dallas County. The legal system in general has not even acknowledged that my child was a victim and she continues to be victimized. Sex trafficking doesn't look like what we all have in our head or what we've been told or what's been on the news. Yes, those are very real situations. But sex trafficking can be the young adult next door. Most victims in any situation of abuse or people that you know and people that you have come to trust, I ask that there be some resources for parents when this is all said and done to help recognize signs, because it is heartbreaking and it is very much a part of our life from here on out of said this before then this is the battle before us right now to get her free.
But we'll continue to battle and we'll continue to heal. From every aspect of this, from the law, from her being a juvenile, from her being victimized, for her being sex trafficked and sexually abused, thank you for saying we're courageous. But I'll be honest, it is truly by our faith in God that has held us and has kept us. My prayer would be that the legal system recognize my daughter as a sex trafficking victim and they change the law because she's not the only one.
I know that. I know there are other young women and probably men that have gone through this and want a sex trafficking victim or a victim in general speaks out and you do nothing. You're literally saying they don't matter.
Everyone, please keep us in prayer and pray for the day to open his eyes and recognize and do something about it and drop this case.
Don't forget to give us a fantastic review wherever you get your podcasts. It really helps. And I'm a proud donor to the Innocence Project, and I really hope you'll join me in supporting this very important cause and helping to prevent future wrongful convictions. Go to Innocence Project outward to learn how to donate and get involved. I'd like to thank our production team, Connor Hall and Kevin Ortiz. The music and the show is by three time Oscar nominated composer J.
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