They quickly determined that one of the passengers in the car was a 17-year-old girl who’d been advertised on a prostitution website. The driver, Edward Earl Daniels, was her trafficker. He met the girl, who’d run away from home, through his son. Daniels had likely been trafficking her for about two weeks.
“The FBI was instrumental in this investigation because they were able to search the phones immediately after we obtained the search warrant. It allowed us to get an accurate picture of what was going on,” said Oxford Police Department Investigator Chad Carwile.
While investigators gathered ample evidence from Daniels’ car and hotel room, the cell phone evidence was key to making the case. Although law enforcement is increasingly unable to access crucial evidence on encrypted devices, investigators lawfully accessed the phone in this case.
“It was all spelled out on the phone—text messages between Daniels and the victim. The phone was a textbook indication of human trafficking,” said FBI Special Agent C. Ryan Berthay. At the time of the investigation, Berthay was a Mississippi Attorney General’s Office agent working on an FBI task force out of the Jackson Field Office.