Houston Family Fighting for More Action to Prevent Sex Trafficking After Teen Survivor Takes Own Life

Lead Photo: The Galleria area and downtown Houston. Photo by Jonathan Lewis/Getty Images
The Galleria area and downtown Houston. Photo by Jonathan Lewis/Getty Images
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A Texas teenager died by suicide two years after she was drugged and sold to sex traffickers.

Mariano Serrano told Fox 26 Houston his 15-year-old daughter Leticia “Letty” Serrano barricaded herself in their bathroom Saturday morning. When he reached her, the teen had already taken her life.

“She died in my arms,” the father said.

The Houston man said his teenage girl had not been the same since she was abducted and sold to sex traffickers two years ago.

“We got her back damaged,” Letty’s grandmother Cynthia Rivera told ABC13.

She said the teen, who was 13 years old when she was taken, was “the perfect target” for traffickers. A “loner,” she was also struggling after the death of her brother.

The family searched for the girl for days and found her near Moody Park in Houston. But her family said she experienced new battles with addiction and trauma.

“When we got her back she was already broken and addicted at that point — the road to recovery was and is one of the hardest things for any child to overcome,” Rivera wrote on a Facebook fundraiser collecting donations for the late teen’s funeral.

After her rescue, Letty ran away to be back with the trafficker twice.

“She wanted to be with him,” Serrano told FOX 7 Austin. “But she also didn’t want to hurt her family.”

After Letty was found, her kidnapper was arrested and jailed for just three days. He allegedly abducted another 13-year-old after his release.

“I want to see him in court,” Serrano told the outlet. “It’s his fault my daughter is dead.”

Houston Police Commander Jim Dale said he plans to reopen the case.

“She was a victim and somehow her cries fell through the cracks and I think that’s why it’s so imperative that we get the schools involved,” he told the outlet.

As the family plans a funeral for Letty, they are also raising awareness about the cost of sex trafficking and its prevalence in Texas.

According to Micah Gamboa, executive director of Elijah Rising, there are thousands of trafficking victims in Houston and more than 300,000 in Texas.

“It’s a very familiar story, unfortunately,” she told ABC13. “Entire cities are becoming red light districts. It’s no longer just a centralized or isolated issue. It’s actually spreading across the nation.”

Rivera is calling on officials at Marshall Middle School, the institution Letty attended when she was abducted, to increase education about sex trafficking dangers to prevent what happened to her granddaughter from happening to anyone else.

“I ask you [to] help us and that her death does not go in vain, she wrote in the fundraiser. “… We as a community and the system failed this young lady and her family once, let’s not do it again.”