ST. PETERSBURG — A Pinellas County sex trafficking investigation involving the controversial website Backpage.com netted the arrest Tuesday of a fourth suspect on prostitution charges.
Ashley Rose Clark, 19, was arrested on charges that she helped a 15-year-old girl to commit sex acts with men in exchange for money, according to sheriff's officials. After the sex acts had taken place, the girl would give the money to Clark.
The girl, whose name was withheld due to the nature of the crime, was one of two teens identified as victims in a separate human trafficking case that began last week. The girls were found May 12 in a room at the Knights Inn Motel at 2595 54th Ave. N in the company of 21-year-old Donnell Jenkins, authorities said.
Jenkins, detectives said, helped force the girls into prostitution, threatening them with violence if they did not comply. He worked with two other people, Stacy Jo Bumgarner, 28, and her boyfriend, the alleged ringleader, Antron Smith, 30.
The trio posted ads on Backpage.com, offering the girls' services, and helped arrange encounters with men in local motel rooms, authorities said. All three were arrested after deputies raided the Knights Inn to serve an unrelated warrant on Bumgarner.
Detectives learned that, before she met Jenkins, the 15-year-old had stayed with Clark for about two weeks at the La Quinta Inn and Gateway Motel. Clark, who paid for the motel rooms, would post ads on Backpage.com, authorities said. Men would then meet Clark and the girl for sex, after which the girl gave Clark all the money she made.
Clark was arrested Tuesday when deputies responded to a disturbance call in the area of 39th Street N and 54th Avenue N. She was booked in the Pinellas County Jail on charges of procuring a minor for prostitution and deriving proceeds from prostitution. She was held without bail.
Cops have dealt with Clark before. Last year, she was a key witness in a Pinellas Park murder investigation that led to the arrest of her boyfriend, Randy White, and two other young men. White, 20, remains jailed for his alleged role in the slaying of 39-year-old David Rhea, along with Cody Dials, 19, and Zachary Perrine, 22.
Rhea was shot to death May 7, 2012, during an early morning home invasion robbery. In the subsequent investigation, detectives interviewed Clark multiple times, according to court documents. She and other witnesses testified that White, Dials and Perrine met up in a room at the LaMark Charles Motel just before the robbery. They later returned to count a wad of cash, according to testimony. All three are awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges.
Since then, Clark has been arrested twice for possession of prescription drugs. Earlier this year, a judge ordered her to attend a drug abuse treatment program.