Investigators: home was ‘prison’ for victims of trafficking - FOX 13 News

Investigators: home was ‘prison’ for victims of trafficking

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CLEARWATER (FOX 13) -

It's a crime all about control. Police say five victims of varying ages were imprisoned inside a Clearwater home. Detectives say the victims' lives were dictated by 37-year-old Jeffrey Keowin.

"We became aware of the case when one of the victims who had been living there had to wait until the suspect was asleep to be able to escape from the residence and call us and say that they needed help," Clearwater Police's Rob Shaw said Tuesday.

Human trafficking detectives say Keowin picked the victims up in a small town in Indiana. Police say he took them back and forth to Clearwater, reportedly, in the back of a Uhaul truck.

Investigators say Keowin physically and sexually abused them and cut off their communication to family. Police say one of the women was forced into prostitution. Some of the victims who are mentally-handicapped went without treatment and another suffering from diabetes went without medicine.

"He basically controlled their lives. He controlled their government checks that came in, he controlled any kind of money they had. He's the one that provided them food, or didn't provide them food," Shaw said.

Neighbors instantly felt something was off when Keowin moved in earlier this month to the N. Osceola Avenue neighborhood.

"I just saw them walking up and down the street. Most of them didn't have their shoes on, it just didn't seem like they fit in the neighborhood," neighbor Pamela Baller said Tuesday.

Police say no one knew what was going on behind closed doors. Investigators say the home was a prison, where words proved stronger than any kind of lock.

"I don't think they felt they could leave. I think they were so in fear of their personal safety that they did whatever he told them, whenever he told them," Shaw said.

Keowin's being held at the Pinellas County Jail on $165,000 bond. Police say more charges could follow. They're asking for any information from the public to determine whether there are any other victims. If you have information, you're asked to call Clearwater Police Department at 727-562-4242.

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