Utility workers discover sex trafficking victim, who is now missing, police say

One man is in custody and a second is being sought after Alabama utility workers investigating theft of services on Thursday stumbled upon a woman who told police she had been forced into prostitution for more than a year.

Since that shocking discovery, and the woman's rescue, she has been reported missing by her family, officials with the Brookside Police Department said Saturday. Brookside is a tiny former mining town located about 15 miles northwest of Birmingham.

Shannon McKinney, 25, of Brookside, is a white female who stands 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs about 140 pounds. She has brown eyes and brown hair.

Credit: Brookside Police Department

Credit: Brookside Police Department

"McKinney is the victim of the prostitution case reported on Thursday," a Brookside police statement said. "She left a women's treatment center early Friday morning. The family is deeply concerned for her safety and believes she may be with the suspect Steven Hollier.

“This case has been turned over to Homeland Security Investigations. Please keep Shannon and her family in your prayers. We pray for her safe return home.”

Police officials said officers were called around 3:30 p.m. Thursday to a home in the 100 block of Church Street, from which workers with Alabama Power said a man had fled when they tried to talk to him.

The workers found McKinney in the house.

"The residence was in horrible condition with no running water or utilities," a news release from the department said. "Upon further investigation, the female stated she was a victim who was drugged and forced against her will to have sex with numerous unknown males in exchange for money, drugs or stolen goods for more than a year."

The suspects had found a way to illegally wire the house for power, which brought the utility workers there that afternoon, the news release said.

Two men were identified as suspects: Logan Williams and Steven Hollier.

A search warrant was obtained for the home, police officials said.

Credit: Brookside Police Department

Credit: Brookside Police Department

"Officers located a large amount of syringes, stolen credit cards and property from numerous victims in and around Jefferson, Walker, and Shelby counties, narcotic paraphernalia, and additional confidential items of evidence," the news release said. "Investigators are working to identify numerous potential theft victims at this time as evidence is being processed."

Williams turned himself in to authorities Saturday and is cooperating with the investigation, police officials said.

"Mr. Williams has been placed under arrest for warrants issued on previous charges from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office for failure to appear, burglary, theft and obstruction of justice," police said. "All existing warrants are listed with no bond.

“No charges have been filed against Williams in the ongoing prostitution case at this time.”

Williams, 26, was transferred to the Jefferson County Jail Sunday afternoon, according to jail records.

Warrants have been issued for Hollier’s arrest on charges of theft of services and utility tampering. He remained at large Monday morning.

Credit: Brookside Police Department

Credit: Brookside Police Department

Police officials on Sunday night issued a statement shooting down social media posts that claim McKinney lied about her alleged ordeal.

"Contrary to conflicting social media posts by persons not involved in the case investigation, Brookside investigators have not released any statements referencing 'not believing the victim' or claiming the 'victim is lying to police,'" the statement said. "The victim's case is an ongoing investigation and we continue to gather evidence as the case investigation progresses."

Investigators said there is sufficient evidence to substantiate McKinney’s claims of prostitution, as well as evidence that she was forced to participate against her will.

"The victim is a drug addict, which makes these cases extremely difficult to investigate," the police statement said. "Whether she has been forced into addiction or her addiction is voluntary is still under investigation.

“At this point in the investigation, we are concentrating our efforts on finding the victim, helping her receive proper treatment, and continuing to gather the facts and evidence in the case investigation.”

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of either McKinney or Hollier is asked to call Brookside police at 205-674-9275.

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