Although African Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 37 percent of the missing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s database under the age of 18 and 26 percent above the age of 18. Cases involving African Americans also tend to receive less media coverage than missing Whites, with missing men of color getting even less attention.
To be a part of the solution, NewsOne will profile missing persons and provide tips about how to keep your loved ones safe and what to do if someone goes missing.
In July, Inglish Walker told her family that she was going to New York City for a short vacation to meet a friend. The 29-year-old mother of four said that she would return to her home in Newport News, Virginia, by Aug. 12. At first, Walker stayed in contact with her family. But when Walker’s mother could not get in contact with her after Aug. 4, the family began to worry.
Turns out, Walker’s family had good reason for concern. Walker, who relatives say suffered abuse as a child in the foster system that makes her unusually trusting as she seeks approval, had not contacted her family because she says she was being prostituted and held against her will.
Darrell Bryant, 38, a systems engineer in Ashburn, Virginia, and the family spokesperson, is Walker’s adopted brother. He told NewsOne in an interview that his sister, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, later learned that Walker had met a man on Facebook who promised that she could make a lot of money by exotic dancing at private parties that he organized. Walker had just lost her home and was desperate for money.
“She’s definitely a lot more trusting than she should be and gives people a chance to implant themselves in her life who don’t belong there,” says Bryant.
Walker arrived in New York City and quickly learned that the situation that the man on Facebook had promised was a lie. The moment she announced she was leaving, she claims the man took her car keys and her phone.
“She was being drugged and raped repeatedly,” Derrica Wilson, co-founder, president and CEO of the Black and Missing Foundation told NewsOne. “They would put her in a car and transfer her from one place to the next and they would confuse her by telling her you are in Chicago or another city that she wasn’t in. Her identification was stolen and they threatened to kill her and her family.”
The National Human Trafficking Hotline received nearly 27,000 calls about sex trafficking last year and identified more than 4,500 victims and survivors of trafficking. Sex trafficking in the United States increased 36 percent in 2016 from the year before, the group found. Most experts believe the figures around human trafficking in the United States are severely under reported.
Bryant says his sister describes being physically abused and drugged with Xanax and MDMA, also known as the party drug Molly.
Walker unsuccessfully tried to escape, says Bryant. At one point, she escaped long enough to call 911, but did not know where she was because she had been drugged. Walker says she was confused and could not remember her mother’s cell phone number. Bryant says his sister even tried to walk up to police officers on the street but was rebuffed.
“They told her she needed to go to the precinct,” Bryant said. It’s unclear how she ended up back in the hands of her captors.
Bryant says his family sought help from law enforcement in Newport News and New York City without results.
“The first detective in the missing persons squad told me outright ‘I’m not going to look for her. If she turns up in the morgue or in the hospital or jail, I’ll let you known,” Bryant says he was told.
Another police official said it “sounds like she doesn’t want to come home,” Bryant said. Wilson says she’s heard the same story from black family members of the missing.
The Black and Missing Foundation, which Wilson co-founded with her sister-in-law Natalie Wilson, posted a profile of Walker on their site in November. Two days before Christmas, Wilson received a call on the group’s confidential tip line. A woman, who said she had been trafficked with Walker, gave Wilson the location of a vacant building where Walker used to hang out.
A woman, who said she had been trafficked with Walker, gave Wilson the location of a vacant building where Walker used to hang out.
“Please save her before something bad happens,” Wilson recalls the tipster, who requested anonymity, saying. “The tip was so detailed that I was able to give a physical address.”
Wilson shared the tip with law enforcement and Walker’s family but says nothing was done. Fed up, Walker’s mother contacted the New York state governor’s office. In February, new investigators from the New York State Police reached out to Wilson inquiring about the initial tip she had received in December, according to e-mails reviewed by NewsOne.
The New York State Police declined comment. “We cannot comment on anything,” an investigator from the New York State Police said.
Within two months of the new investigators from the New York State Police becoming involved, Walker was arrested after she was spotted brandishing a knife against a group of men she says was threatening her, said Bryant.
Walker was processed and released but the state police had put an alert on her name. One of the state investigators went to the address where the altercation occurred and found Walker on April 17.
Wilson, a former law enforcement officer, praised the work by the new state police investigators assigned to the case. The Black and Missing Foundation arranged transportation back to Virginia for Walker where she was reunited with her family.
A video Bryant recorded of the reunion shows Walker’s mother screaming as her daughter walks into her school. Walker’s children drape themselves all over her and Walker’s son runs down the hall and throws himself into his mother’s arms.
“Inglish said if she [had] to continue in that lifestyle, she would have committed suicide,” Bryant said.
Walker’s saga is not over. She and her children are staying in a safe place while she gets on her feet. Walker’s family is focused on helping her get counseling for the trauma she endured during captivity. Efforts are also underway to dismiss the criminal case against Walker in New York City.
New York State Police would not comment on whether there had been any arrests in the case “due to the ongoing investigation.”
Bryant hopes his sister’s and his family’s story serves as an inspiration to others with missing loved ones, especially people of color.
“Don’t just settle for the answer they give you,” said Bryant, who gives all the credit for being persistent in finding his sister to his mother. “If it’s not the answer you want, keep pushing.”
To learn more about the work of the Black and Missing Foundation, visit their website.
Jeffery C. Mays is a contributing writer for NewsOne. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffCMays.