Today, a grand jury in Texas indicted Zephaniah Trevino for murder. Zephaniah, known as “Zephi” to her friends and family, was just 16 years old when her sex trafficker, Philip Baldenegro, shot a man with whom she was being forced to perform sex acts.
“Even though we availed ourselves of the opportunity to submit a limited presentation to the grand jury on Zephi’s behalf, the grand jury process is prosecutor-friendly in that prosecutors control what grand jurors see and hear,” said Justin Moore, Zephi’s attorney. “Because of this being the case, it is not shocking that Zephi was indicted today. The District Attorney’s office has pursued prosecuting this child victim in an oddly aggressive fashion, and this is a further indication of such.”
Moore also expressed concern over the DA’s sudden change of mind when determining the charges against Zephi.
“Why the change to murder from capital murder, when Zephi was forced to fight against those charges as a juvenile?” he asked. “The likely reason why the DA lessened the charges is to increase their chances of conviction. This prosecution isn’t about obtaining justice; they only seem concerned with winning — presumably for political reasons.”
“We are anxious to see the grand jury transcript in order to get insight on if the Dallas DA’s office honestly pointed out the lack of any real investigation of Zephi being a trafficking victim by the law enforcement agencies in the area,” he continued. “Because up until now, the outcry that she made has been virtually ignored — and continues to be by the DA.”
Bekah Charleston, a fellow sex trafficking survivor, advocate, and public speaker who has been recognized for her anti-sex trafficking work, also issued a statement about Zephi’s case.
"I am not shocked, but am saddened to hear that Zephaniah Trevino was indicted today for murder by a grand jury in Texas that never got to hear how she was terrorized and forced into prostitution by the man that pulled the trigger,” she said. “Trevino was a sex trafficking victim leading up to and at the time of the incident, yet Dallas County has refused to acknowledge her victimization and lack of choices that led her to the murder scene that day.”
“With the improper relationship between the DA’s office and Baldenegro, there’s a great need for transparency,” Charleston continued. “It’s important to know whether the DA’s office acknowledged the reality of Zephi’s victimization or if they continued to ignore it. With the release of the grand jury transcript, we will know if they presented evidence in an unbiased fashion.”
After enduring a decade of abuse and exploitation, Charleston built a career dedicated to the empowerment of survivors and focused on community collaboration at all levels. In 2013, she launched Bekah Speaks Out to provide customized training and consultancy services to law enforcement, service providers, and community leaders alike. Since then, she has earned degrees in criminal justice and criminology, filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Nevada over the legalized prostitution industry, and worked with senators to advocate for the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act, which provides victims the opportunity to vacate or expunge federal convictions resulting from their victimization.