Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Woman's Abduction Linked to Trafficking; Police: Couple Tied to Rape, Attack Show Link to Even Broader Problem

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Woman's Abduction Linked to Trafficking; Police: Couple Tied to Rape, Attack Show Link to Even Broader Problem

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Schoettler

A man and woman captured Saturday in a stolen car in Baker County have been tied to a police investigation of the rape and kidnapping of a woman who escaped her captors in Columbia County earlier that day.

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday the attack on the unidentified victim has led to evidence of a human-trafficking group in the county, but no other cases or details were released.

Sheriff Mark Hunter said there are possibly multiple victims involved, but the investigation is ongoing. Among the difficulties faced by investigators is a reluctance of victims to come forward for various reasons, including their fears of getting in trouble.

Hunter said he expects more details to come out, possibly as early as Wednesday.

"We feel like there are the elements of that," he said of a wider-spread problem. "We are trying to confirm that. We're running down a lot more leads and getting some evidence put together to see where it takes us."

Hunter described the attack on the woman and other human trafficking-related offenses as horrific.

"In our rural North Florida culture up here, we're not accustomed to these types of things," Hunter said. "We're going to do everything possible to hold these people accountable."

James Lauvalle Harris, 20, was arrested in Columbia County in the attack, while warrants in the same case are being sought for the pair charged with auto theft in Baker County, records show. Columbia County Sheriff's Office spokesman Cpl. Murray Smith said the pair - Germetrica Church, 25, and Marqui Church, 29, both of Lake City - are being investigated in the kidnapping and rape.

The Sheriff's Office got involved after a motorist called deputies Saturday morning to report being flagged down by the victim, who said she'd been kidnapped, beaten and raped. The victim, suffering from pain to her head and neck from being beaten, was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Investigators had been searching for the victim since March 5 after her sister and boyfriend reported her missing, authorities said.

The victim told deputies she borrowed her sister's blue Hyundai Elantra on March 3 to help a friend move. …

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