Calgary

Sex trafficking victim 'feared for her life' while being held captive for 5 days in Calgary apartment

For five days, KM feared she might be killed by the four people who took turns beating her and forcing her to have sex with strangers while holding her captive in a Calgary apartment building, the judge heard on Day 1 of Jessica Vinje's human trafficking trial.

Jessica Vinje is on trial for human trafficking, sex assault, assault, forcible confinement

Jessica Nyome Louise Vinje is on trial on numerous charges stemming from an incident in late 2017. (Calgary Police Service)

For five days, KM feared she might be killed by the four people who took turns beating her and forcing her to have sex with strangers for money while holding her captive in a small, windowless bedroom inside a Calgary apartment building.

On Monday, prosecutor Donna Spaner outlined the evidence expected to come out at Jessica Vinje's trial, which is being presided over by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Scott Brooker.

Vinje, 30, is on trial on charges of human trafficking, forcible confinement, sexual assault and assault.

A publication ban protects the victim's identity. Two teenagers have already pleaded guilty to offences connected to this case.

In December 2017, KM was a sex trade worker, Spaner said in her opening statement.

KM arranged a sex-for-money transaction and showed up at the York apartment building on Fifth Avenue S.W. on Dec. 8, 2017.

Once there, a teenager met KM in the lobby and brought her upstairs to an apartment where she was forced into the unit after a gun was pulled on her. 

Over the next five days, KM lived a terrifying existence — she was beaten, forced to have sex with men for money, which the prosecution says was paid to Vinje. 

She was given very little to eat or drink. The people holding KM against her will took videos depicting the sexual violence.

KM 'feared for her life'

A couple of days into the confinement, KM's captors put a mask over her head, led her from the apartment and drove her to an unknown location where, based on a conversation she'd overheard in the car, KM was to be sold as a sex slave.

"She feared for her life," said Spaner, adding that Vinje was in the vehicle with a gun at her side.

But the transaction failed and KM was returned to apartment, where she suffered more random beatings and more forced sex with strangers.

On Dec. 13, KM noticed the apartment was quiet and snuck out of the room. The captors were all sleeping.

Barefoot, KM fled the apartment building and ran across the street to a liquor store, where she called 911.

'She looked so scared'

When Const. Keeley Grier arrived at the liquor store about 30 minutes after the 911 call, she found the victim under the store clerk's desk "huddled in a little ball."

"She looked terrible," said Grier. "She looked like she'd been punched in the face … she looked so scared."

After finding her some warmer clothing, Grier and her partner took KM to hospital.

In the meantime, other officers were tasked with attending the apartment where KM had been held. Two teens were arrested coming out of the apartment.

During her cross-examination of one of the police witnesses, defence lawyer Rebecca Snukal pointed out it took officers more than two hours to arrive at the apartment building to execute their arrest of two of the suspects.

Det. Scott Mizibrocky from CPS's sex crimes unit testified about two videos found a cell phone he seized from one of the teens. The videos were played in court for the witness, lawyers, accused and judge to view and depict the victim performing sexual acts on an unknown man.

A woman who Mizibrocky identified as Vinje and the other young men can be heard laughing at the victim and making fun of her.

Just over a week later, after Calgary police released a photo of Vinje and issued warrants for her arrest, the suspect turned herself in.

Vinje's trial is set to last two weeks.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.