Child-Sex Ring Stuns Community
RYE, Texas (AP) _ Investigators say they fear five or six more girls may be victims of an alleged child-sex ring already linked to sexual assaults of four children.
Authorities have learned that during the past four years, four girls in Hoop-and-Holler, an unincorporated subdivision of Rye, were offered gifts in exchange for participating in sex acts with numerous men. The girls’ ages ranged from 9 to 13.
″It was like prostitution, but they didn’t know it,″ said Houston Police Vice Officer Steve Andrews, who is helping with the investigation.
″I get the impression they thought that was the way life was, the way to get nice things,″ Andrews told the Houston Chronicle in a story published Wednesday.
In Hoop-and-Holler, dirt roads connect rural homes including shanties made of garbage bags and lacking electricity and running water. About 200 people live in the East Texas community.
Authorities learned of the alleged child-sex ring May 8 when four girls called police and asked to tell ″the whole story of what was going on,″ said Liberty County Constable Paul Lognion.
The girls, who include three sisters, told investigators their initiation into the alleged child-sex ring began around their ninth birthdays. They were given new clothes, makeup, camera film and a trip to Astroworld amusement park in Houston.
Six men were charged last Friday with aggravated sexual assault of children. Arrest warrants were issued for two other men.
Authorities say the girls have given videotaped statements.
One of the girls, age 12, was found living in a camper of a pickup truck with a man, his wife and three young children.
Robert Ziriax, a 47-year-old construction worker from Baytown, was charged with sexual abuse and held on $50,000 bond.
Ziriax contends the girl was only a baby sitter and that he was ″trying to get her out of a bad environment,″ said Liberty County Sheriff E.W. Applebe.
″But the girls say he has had sex with them and once even whipped his wife in an effort to force her to participate,″ Applebe said.
Applebe said investigators feared other young girls may also be involved.
Also charged are William Ralph Casey, 26, and Lonnie James Goodson, 22, both of Hoop-and-Holler; Thomas Van Hook, 31, of Sour Lake; Armando Alvarez Mendoza, 64, of Houston and Valentine Rivera, 57, of Hitchcock. All were jailed on bonds ranging from $25,000 to $35,000, Applebe said.
When the father of the three sisters was told of their alleged activities, he cut off their hair as punishment.
″Their father had taken a pair of scissors and lopped big chunks out of their long, dark hair,″ said Lognion.
The father has checked into a mental hospital for evaluation, Applebe said. The girls are now in foster homes.