Dallas teen, who claims she is a sex trafficking victim, is indicted by grand jury for the murder of a man who she claims ‘purchased her services from her pimp’ when she was 16
Zephaniah Trevino, now 18, is charged for murder and aggravated robbery in connection with the fatal shooting of Carlos Arajeni-Arriaza Morillo in 2019
Police said Trevino was in a Dallas apt on Aug 23, 2019, when Philip Aguilera Baldenegro, who she alleges was sex trafficking her, shot the two men, killing one, during an ambush and robbery
The teen was charged with capital murder alongside Philip Junior Aguilera Baldenegro, 20, who has admitted to pulling the trigger, and 20-year-old Jesse Martinez
A Dallas County grand jury reduced the charges against Trevino from capital murder to murder and aggravated robbery on Wednesday
The lesser charge of murder, carries a minimum five-year sentence compared to life in prison on a capital murder charge which her attorney is a ‘disappointing’ decision, but not surprising
Trevino alleges she was being sex trafficked by Aguilera, who was 18 at the time of the killing – an allegation that he has denied
Codefendants claim she helped set up the 2019 robbery and fled when it went south
Her defense of being trafficked for sex is a ‘smokescreen to generate sympathy,’ attorneys for Aguilera said
Denying his client is a sex trafficker, David Finn says ‘Zephi and Philip were in a consensual boyfriend-girlfriend relationship,’ adding that Trevino was the mastermind behind the robbery gone wrong
A Texas teen who has claimed to be a victim of sex trafficking was indicted this week for murder in connection to the murder of a man who allegedly payed foer her services, in a human trafficking deal. The vendor she claims, was her pimp, who was also a teenager himself, while her two male co-defendants say her claims of being pimped is a smokescreen, maintaining that she was part of the gang and helped set set up a robbery that went wrong.
Trevino is accused of taking part in the fatal robbery on Aug. 3, 2019, along with Philip Junior Aguilera Baldenegro and Jesse Martinez, both 20. She was 16 at the time, and the men were 18.
Trevino who has claimed to be a victim of sex trafficking has been indicted for murder in connection to the shooting death of Carlos Arajeni-Arriaza Morillo, 24, a man she said was engaging her services as a 16-year-old prostitute, brokered by her pimp, 18-year-old Philip Junior Aguilera Baldenegro.
Despite not pulling the trigger, Trevino who is now 18, was facing charges of capital murder alongside Philip Junior Aguilera Baldenegro, 20, and Jesse Martinez, 20, in the shooting death of Morillo in August 2019.
On Wednesday, a Dallas County grand jury reduced the charges against Trevino from capital murder to murder and aggravated robbery, which her attorney Ashkan Mehryari said was a ‘disappointing’ decision, but not surprising.
Still Mehryari said, he was glad to learn that the charge is murder, which has a minimum sentence of five years as opposed to capital murder, which carries the possibility of life in prison.
On Wednesday, the grand jury indicted Trevino on a murder charge, which carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison .
According to police, Trevino was in an apartment when Philip Aguilera Baldenegro, who she alleges was sex trafficking her, shot the two men, killing one, during an ambush and robbery on Aug. 23 2019.
Aguilera and Martinez lured two men to the 300 block of Northeast Fifth Street in Grand Prairie to rob them. But the men fought back and Morillo was fatally shot during the struggle. The other victim was wounded.
Attorneys for Aguilera, the man accused of pulling the trigger, debunked the sex trafficking claims as ‘absolute fiction’ and designed to generate sympathy for Trevino. Trevino they said was not a victim whatsoever, and allegedly helped to set up the robbery before fleeing when it went wrong.
Defense attorney David Finn claims the sex trafficking narrative is nothing more than a ‘smokescreen’ or ‘diversion’.
Finn doesn’t deny that his client shot Morillo, but debunked claims of victimhood because ‘Trevino was the one who set up the robbery.
Denying his client is a sex trafficker, Finn said ‘Zephi and Philip were in a consensual boyfriend-girlfriend relationship,’ adding that Trevino was the mastermind behind the robbery gone wrong.
‘I’ve been a state prosecutor. I’ve been a federal prosecutor. I’ve been a criminal trial judge. I prosecuted real sex trafficking cases, both state and federal,’ Finn said.
‘As a judge, we had domestic violence cases that had elements of coercion and trafficking. And this allegation by Zephi Trevino, or her mother … and her attorneys — who are very good attorneys, I know them well — it’s complete bullsh*t.’
‘There is not one single shred of evidence that’s backed up in allegations of sex trafficking — not only as it relates to my client, but to anyone.’
As news of the charges made headlines last year, Trevino gained support from celebrities like Jamie Lee Curtis and Kim Kardashian.
In December, Curtis shared an open letter where she urged the Dallas district attorney, John Creuzot, to drop the murder charge against the teen after her defense team said she was the innocent witness to her seller murdering her purchaser.
In the letter shared to her Instagram at the time, Curtis wrote: ‘I’m an actress, author and advocate for children, but most important of all, I’m a mother.
‘How is it possible that a 16-year-old girl, a victim of sex trafficking and sexual violence who was an innocent bystander in a crime, could possibly be held accountable for that crime?
‘That is the brutal truth happening to Zephi Trevino today,’ Curtis wrote.
‘The Dallas district attorney plans to try this teen sex trafficking victim as an adult when she is still just a child.’
‘Hearing her story pierced my mother’s heart and I am writing this as a way to help Zephi’s own mother, Crystal, fight to free her daughter,’ Curtis shared.
‘As a mother of two children, I am outraged. Our criminal justice system must be better than this. All the DA has to do is drop the charges against this innocent girl.
‘She didn’t hold a gun. She didn’t create the scenario. She was being sold for sex. And now, after being abused and victimized by her trafficker, she’s being victimized again — this time by the legal system that should be protecting her.’
Curtis said injustice ‘is so confounding that you need to put your name and your exposure where your mouth is but much more importantly, where your heart is’.
She ended: ‘Please join us to help put pressure on the DA. No family should have to endure this.’
A petition to drop the charges garnered more than 375,000 signatures last year while a fund set up for her legal defense raised more than $100,000 after Kim Kardashian tweeted about the case.
Friends and family described Trevino as being a typical teenager in her Grand Prairie, Texas community.
But her life took a dangerous turn when she became involved in unhealthy relationships that led to drug use.
Her family said she started running away from home, eventually meeting an adult man who they allege began grooming her for sex trafficking using drugs, coercion, emotional manipulation and abuse, physical threats and threats against her family.
Her family claims that over time, Trevino was forced numerous times by her trafficker to participate in sexual acts with other adults.
After the public defender assigned to her case pushed her to take a plea deal with a long sentence, Trevino’s family retained national civil rights and criminal defense attorney Justin A. Moore and Dallas-based criminal defense attorney Mehryari.
Her lawyers insist Trevino fell in with the wrong crowd and was groomed for prostitution.
During the fatal incident she was being pimped ‘under duress’, and the man who was allegedly intending to pay to have sex with her knew she was underage.
Defense attorneys for Martinez say they’res troubled by the false narrative about the murder case.
Trevino, who had been jailed with bail set at $750,000 after her certification as an adult, was released on bond in March. She had previously spent about a year in juvenile detention before being released in September.
Aguilera and Martinez have both been indicted on charges of capital murder and aggravated robbery.
Martinez remains in jail, with bail set at more than $1.1 million, while Aguilera is free on bond.