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Prosecutors charge Kent couple for pimping girls

King County prosecutors have charged a 44-year-old Kent woman and her 32-year-old boyfriend with promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor for allegedly setting up a 15-year-old girl and two other girls to work as prostitutes.

Altesa Bernice Turner and Bernard Demond Watkins are scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Aug. 6 in King County Superior Court at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. Turner remained Friday in the county jail in Seattle with bail set at $50,000. Watkins remained in the county jail in Kent with bail at $50,000.

Kent Police arrested the couple July 12 at their Kent apartment.

The couple allegedly pimped several juvenile girls this summer through advertisements posted on www.backpage.com, a website known to be used by pimps and prostitutes to find customers through ads posted for escorts, according to charging papers.

Detectives tracked down Turner and Watkins after police responded to a 911 call about a fight July 11 at a bus stop in the 10800 block of Southeast 208th Street.

Officers arrested Turner for investigation of fourth-degree assault in the fight for reportedly exiting her car and initiating a fight with another woman at the bus stop. The two women knew each other. Officers discovered during their investigation of the fight that Turner and Watkins were involved in prostitution activity, narcotics and firearms.

Watkins moved from Indiana into Turner's apartment in Kent around March of this year. Turner reportedly took photos of the 15-year-old girl wearing Turner's purple lingerie and black high heels, according to charging papers. The photos were used to post an ad on backpage.com.

Detectives saw an ad on the site posted July 9 that listed Turner's phone number as a contact and included five photos of the girl, including one wearing purple lingerie and black high heels. The girl also had a distinctive tattoo on her chest that helped detectives determine it was the same girl who had been photographed in the couple's apartment.

Another photo of the girl showed a couch that matched a couch found in the couple's apartment. The ad on the website also listed two other females and Turner's contact number.

Watkins allegedly also posted ads on the website with his phone number as a contact. He would collect 50 percent of the money that the girls would get while working as a prostitute. The girls would meet some clients at the couple's apartment.

A Valley SWAT team raided the couple's unit July 12 at the Indigo Springs Apartments, 11101 S.E. 208th St. Detectives searched the residence and found several items depicted in backpage.com ads, including purple lingerie, black high heels, leopard print lingerie, a distinctive floral patterned couch and a multi-color shower curtain.

During an interview with detectives, Turner said she allowed girls to use her lingerie, heels, couch and apartment to take photos with her phone in order to post ads on backpage.com. She said she also put $60 on a prepaid Visa card so the girls would have a credit card to pay for the ads. She said she thought the ads cost about $10. She added calls would come in within minutes after the ads were posted.

Turner told detectives she never made any profit from the prostitution. She told one of the officers she likes to help out young people who do not have other places to go.

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