2 charged with human trafficking of a minor

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jun 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-06 17:29:48-04

Howard County police have charged a man and a woman with human trafficking of a 16-year-old girl. 

Andre Lamar Russell, 28, and Heather Lynn Harding, 23, were charged for forcing the girl into prostitution. According to detectives, Russell approached the teen, who had been reported as a runaway, and offered her a place to stay. 

Police said he then sexually assaulted her and forced her to use drugs. Investigators believe that Russell and Harding coordinated prostitution appointments and forced the teen to perform sex acts for money, which Russell then took for himself. Detectives said he placed ads on the website Backpage, which is known to be used for prostitution advertising. 

On May 31, detectives received a tip that a man was offering sexual services with a teenage girl for money in the Jessup area. On June 1, officers observed Russell with Harden at a motel in the 7500 block of Assateague Drive in Jessup. Detectives responded and located a 16-year-old girl in their motel room. Russell and Harding were then arrested. 

Police transported the victim to a child advocacy center to connect with appropriate housing and other services. Investigators are working to determine if Russell and Harding were connected to other victims. 

Anyone with information about human trafficking in Howard County should call 410-313-STOP.