Husband charged in sex inquiry

Along with wife and her sons, man is accused in case where police say 2
teenage girls were held captive, prostituted

BY SHANNON PRATHER
Pioneer Press

Ramsey County prosecutors leveled charges Wednesday against a fourth
member of a St. Paul family accused of holding two teenage girls captive
and forcing them into prostitution.

Ben Kerschbaum, 30, faces felony charges of kidnapping and false
imprisonment in connection with one of the girls.

Prosecutors allege that Kerschbaum, his wife, Lamiea Ball, and Ball’s two
teenage sons kidnapped, drugged and assaulted the 16-year-old girls.
Using the Internet and ads in alternative weekly newspapers, police say
the family prostituted the pair. Kerschbaum is currently in jail in Rice
County, Minn., on another criminal matter.

Ball was charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment March 20 in
connection with one of the girls.

Police first learned of the family Feb. 22, when one of the 16-year-old
girls, who was being held at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center
as a runaway, told police she had been held captive, raped and assaulted.

The girl said she was lured to the house at 532 Sherburne Ave. under the
guise of a baby-sitting job. When she arrived, she was told she could not
leave and had to work as a prostitute.

She told police she was kept in a closet virtually naked and forced to
perform “tricks” with customers lined up by the family. Ball asked the
girl to call her “Momma.”

When the girl refused to perform, she told police she was pistol-whipped
or beaten with a leather belt. The girl told police how she once escaped
the house, but Ball tracked her down and forced her back into captivity
at gunpoint.

The girl escaped again two weeks later and eventually helped police
locate a second girl who also had been held captive and forced into
prostitution.

The girls were reportedly given sleeping pills and crack cocaine. One
said Ball, 34, threatened her with voodoo and sexually abused her.

Police say the home on Sherburne Avenue burned in a suspected arson fire
March 3.

Ball, whose bail was set at $50,000, will be back in court April 3.
Prosecutors say it still is an active investigation and more charges
could be filed.

Darnell Ishmel Singleton, Ball’s 16-year-old son, and her 15-year-old
son, whose name hasn’t been made public because he is younger than age
16, each were charged with two counts of kidnapping and two counts of
kidnapping for the purpose of facilitating criminal sexual conduct.

The Ramsey County attorney’s office is seeking to move their cases to
adult court.

©2006 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources

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