BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Howard County Police make a stop for what seemed like a medical emergency, but instead, officials say they discovered a suspect who was holding women hostage and using them as prostitutes.
Howard County Police say the suspect used drugs to control the women as he drove them across the state, and forced them into prostitution.
Police say they pulled over 29-year-old William Murray because it seemed like he was having a medical emergency, but police say there was a 34-year-old woman in his car who was a victim of human trafficking.
Investigators also believe Murray may have been trafficking as many as eight other women, and he’s accused of shopping the women around on the internet as prostitutes.
Police say it appears that Murray placed ads on the website Backpage, which is known to be used for prostitution.
Murray is also accused of using heroin to control the victims and limiting when they ate or slept.
“He would advertise the women as prostitutes, he then would arrange the appointments with the customer so to speak, he would take the girl to that location, usually a hotel, force her to go in and perform the sex acts, and then when she came out he would take her money,” says Sherry Llewellyn, with Howard County Police.
In Murray’s Pikesville neighborhood, the allegations shocked the couple next door.
“I’m really stunned. I really am, you know. I mean, he seems like a nice guy from what I know and seen,” says neighbor Mark Waddell.
The problem of human trafficking is well documented up and down the I-95 corridor.
This human trafficking expert says more officers are now able to identify and prevent the problem.
“Law enforcement being trained and having that awareness and presence of mind and understanding of this world was very helpful,” says Iona Rudisill, Human Trafficking Program Manager with the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.
Murray has been released on $15,000 dollars bond. He’s expected back in court in May. Along with human trafficking charges, Murray also faces prostitution-related charges.
Police worked with local service organizations to provide emergency assistance, drug treatment, and shelter to the victim who was in the car with Murray at the time of his medical emergency.
Detectives are continuing to investigate Murray and his connections to additional victims.
Anyone with information should call 410-313-STOP or email HCPDcrimetips@howardcountymd.gov.