Teen’s 2-month ordeal ends with arrest of pair
Judi Villa and Lindsey Collom
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 9, 2005 12:00 AM
Since September, the 15-year-old girl had been raped repeatedly,
threatened with death and sold for sex over the Internet, police said.
Her captors hid the runaway in a hollowed-out box spring covered with a
piece of wood and tucked underneath a bed in a small apartment complex
adjacent to Interstate 17 in west Phoenix.
Then, in a brief moment Monday afternoon, while they were sleeping, the
girl managed to sneak a phone call to her mother. She needed help, she
said. She knew the general area where she was but couldn’t give an
Just after midnight Monday, Phoenix police, who had been looking for a
runaway in the same area, rescued the sobbing girl.
Matthew Gray, 18, and Jannelle Butler, 19, were arrested and accused of a
litany of crimes related to sexual assault and prostitution.
Police say that after repeated visits to the apartment, Butler finally
pointed officers to the girl’s makeshift hiding place, saying she was
worried the girl might be running out of oxygen.
“What we have is a broken 15-year-old girl who was alone and felt like
her life was over,” said Sgt. Andy Hill of the Phoenix Police Department.
“Thank God she’s alive.
“Look what she went through. It’s just unbelievable. I’ve never heard of
anything so horrific done to a kid.”
The girl’s ordeal began in September when she ran away from her El Mirage
home, then met Gray and Butler through a friend, Hill said. The girl was
taken to Washington Park in Phoenix, where police say Gray and Butler
bound her and took her to a nearby apartment, where “she was viciously
and violently gang-raped by several unknown suspects for several hours.”
After that, the 5-foot-6, 140-pound girl was taken to an apartment in the
2500 block of West McLellan Boulevard, where she was imprisoned
periodically in a cramped dog kennel for about three days, threatened
with a gun and “totally brainwashed,” Hill said.
Police said that the suspects asked her, “How do you want to die?” and
“Where do you want to get shot?” The suspects threatened to kill her
family, too, police said.
“Within three hours of knowing these people, she was bound, gagged,
gang-raped and psychologically and emotionally tortured until she
completely broke down,” Hill said.
The girl was forced to work as a prostitute for at least a month. Police
say she was portrayed on the Internet as an adult and forced to have sex
with dozens of men. Officials say it wasn’t clear how much money the
The girl and her family were not identified by police. It is the policy
of The Arizona Republic not identify sexual-assault victims.
Neither Gray nor Butler appears to have a criminal record in Maricopa
County Superior Court.
Gray was booked on suspicion of numerous sex-related charges, including
sexual assault, kidnapping, 80 counts of receiving the earnings of a
prostitute, 80 counts of pandering and 42 counts of operating a house of
prostitution. Butler was booked on suspicion of child prostitution,
kidnapping, 25 counts of receiving the earnings of a prostitute and 50
counts of pandering.
Police began looking for the girl after her mother reported her missing
in September. At the end of that month, a relative of one of the suspects
called police to the apartment where the girl was found to report a
domestic-violence incident. While at the McLellan complex, police were
told about a possible runaway who might be in the apartment, Hill said.
The girl reportedly had been seen at the complex. The officers couldn’t
find the girl but wrote a report that was forwarded to detectives.
In the meantime, the girl’s mother called Phoenix police after hearing
her daughter was being held in the city.
Police, suspecting that the runaway might be the missing El Mirage girl,
visited the McLellan apartment at least three times but never saw the
girl, Hill said. “They were constantly looking out for her,” he said.
After the girl’s phone call Monday afternoon, her mother called police
again. Four officers returned to the apartment.
“They were told she wasn’t here,” Hill said. “But they knew she had to
After talking to neighbors who had seen the girl, the officers went back
to the apartment and “Butler broke down,” Hill said.
“It’s sad,” said Lorraine Montoya, who lives at the complex. “A lot of
stuff goes on here, but something like this has never happened. This
scares a lot of people. . . . If they could do this to 15-year-old, they
could do it to a 10-year-old.”
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