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Portland woman accused of offering 3-year-old child for sex

Kelsey Wheeler (Multnomah County Jail photo).jpg

A woman accused of sex trafficking involving a 3-year-old child made her first appearance in US District Court in Portland Monday.

Kelsey Christine Wheeler, 27, was arrested last week by the FBI following a child porn investigation connected with a Eugene man.

According to court documents obtained by KATU News, police interviewed that man earlier this month, and he claimed he met up with Wheeler after responding to a sex ad online in January 2017.

Documents claim Wheeler, who used an alias, offered an "encounter" with a young child who is known to her for $1,000. When detectives spoke with Wheeler, she said she has been working as a prostitute on and off since she was just 15 years old. She denied offering up the 3-year-old for sex. When asked about the encounter with the Eugene man, Wheeler said he offered her $6,000 for a "mother-daughter" sexual experience.

Neighbors who live in the same SE Portland apartment complex as Wheeler were shocked to learn the allegations. One woman even started to cry out of sadness and horror.

"That is disturbing," an unidentified neighbor told KATU. "I personally wouldn't put myself or my child in that situation."

Detectives found out Wheeler was investigated by Child Protective Services in Las Vegas after she, a man and a child were found in a hotel room, all wearing minimal clothing.

Cares Northwest interviewer supervisor Katheryn Kroeger responds and evaluates children for abuse, including sex abuse. Kroeger says sex trafficking happens more than we think in Portland.

"Portland is along the I-5 corridor and so there's movement of victims, child victims that are being sold for sex all along the route," she said. "People use children in a lot of different ways to get what they want. I don't understand how a person makes that fate, but perhaps the person needs money, wants drugs, wants a place to stay."

Kroeger says it's not uncommon for child victims to be trafficked by a relative or someone they know.

"A common thought is that a pimp is selling children and that happens, but a lot of times, people who sell children are actually relatives, who aren't necessarily in the business of trafficking people," she said. "You feel terrible for children. I mean that's why we do our work, because we want to help children, we want to protect children in our community."

U.S. District Judge John V. Acosta waived Wheeler's preliminary hearing Monday afternoon.

Acosta appointed federal defender Susan Wilk to be her attorney. Wilk asked that a detention hearing be postponed until Wednesday afternoon so that in case Wheeler is released housing would be available.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin told Judge Acosta he expected a grand jury to have reviewed the case by May 8, and asked to schedule Wheeler's arraignment on the charges for 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 11; Acosta agreed.

CARES Northwest’s mission is to stop child abuse and neglect through multidisciplinary prevention, medical evaluation, and ongoing treatment in partnership with our community.

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