A 53-year-old Utah trucker has been arrested in Minnesota, charged with kidnapping a 19-year-old relative and sexually abusing her over six months on the road, Forum Communications reports.
Timothy Vafeades is accused of taking advantage of the woman, who had left Florida for Salt Lake City in May, looking to work for Vafeades' trucking operation. He's accused of holding her in "involuntary servitude" and exerting such control over her that he filed down her teeth with a power tool, Forum reports. Forum notes that court documents indicate Vafeades is so obsessed with vampires that he keeps a pair of dentures with pointed teeth, and he named his company Twilight Express Trucking.
The woman told investigators that Vafeades began sexually abusing her on her first night in Salt Lake City and that he forced her to sleep with him in a single bed in the semi cab while they were on the road. Court documents say that he hit her 20 to 30 times during her captivity and that he once told her he was capable of killing her, Forum reports.
Alert Minnesota authorities helped rescue the woman, Forum reports. When Vafeades stopped Nov. 26 at a weigh station in Clay County on the North Dakota border, authorities conducting a routine check learned that a 1999 lifetime protection order barred him from being with the female relative. Little information was known about what led to that order.
Vafeades was being held Monday in the Clay County Jail, with bail set at $500,000 with conditions and $1 million without, Forum reports.
The case is unusual in its details, but media reports have chronicled numerous other stories of truckers taking advantage of vulnerable women, especially runaways.
The FBI in 2009 unveiled a program called the Highway Serial Killings Initiative in response to a rising number of dead women found along the interstates, as many as 500 at one count. Of the 200 people on a list of suspects, almost all were long-haul truckers.
One former runaway, Vanessa Veselka, now a writer, last year in GQ magazine chronicled her experiences as a teen hitchhiking the interstates – and what might have been a run-in with notorious trucker Robert Ben Rhoades.
Rhoades kept a torture dungeon in the cab of his long-haul semi and is suspected of preying on women, authorities say. He avoided the death penalty last year by accepting life prison sentences for murdering a couple that had been hitchhiking two decades ago, the Associated Press reported.
Authorities in Nebraska just last week said there is evidence that girls are being sold in truck stops along Interstate 80, FOX 42 in Omaha reported. In response, some truckers have joined the fight against the trafficking of girls, the trade publication Today's Trucking reported.
The group Truckers Against Trafficking, which aims to be the "eyes and ears of our nation's highways" in the battle against trafficking, has noted that an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 U.S. children are at risk of entering the sex trade each year.
The Detroit Lakes Tribune has the story this week of veteran New York Mills trucker Bill Brady, who has become an outspoken activist in the fight against youth trafficking.