CLEVELAND, Ohio — Naierra Lockhart had a popularity as a firecracker.
The petite, 15-year-old Cleveland woman was sassy, impulsive, and cute as might be. She didn’t again down from a struggle and wasn’t afraid to begin one. She was additionally a sufferer.
Grown males loved sexually exploiting the woman who nonetheless appeared like a toddler. They paid her in pocket change or generally meals. How do we all know? She advised us.
Earlier than she was shot to dying in a vacant area in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood final October, Naierra had come to the eye of Melanie GiaMaria, an lawyer generally known as a tireless and fearless advocate of sexual assault victims – particularly the younger.
“I turned Naierra’s guardian advert litem in 2017 after she had already come to the eye of the courts. She was being sexually trafficked and didn’t perceive it,” mentioned GiaMaria, who continues to grieve over the lack of her former consumer.
“Like so many women who come from severely dysfunctional properties, Naierra was a ordinary runaway. She had a father who beloved her and tried to be current, however the relationship was fractured. She turned susceptible to sexual predators for essentially the most primary causes. She wanted shelter and meals. You couple that actuality together with her ongoing psychological problems, her life was troublesome, fragile, and very harmful,” mentioned GiaMaria.
Practically 20,000 Ohio kids had been reported lacking in 2018, together with Naierra who had left dwelling, once more. Most runaway kids are ultimately reunited with their households, however what stays troublesome for regulation enforcement to quantify is what number of of these kids are sexually assaulted earlier than discovering their means again dwelling – exploited kids like Naierra.
For practically 20 years, GiaMaria has carefully watched— and critiqued – the way in which marginalized ladies and ladies are handled by the felony justice system. When a serial rapist named Nathan Ford, now serving a life sentence, was busy attacking ladies on Cleveland’s West Facet in 2001, GiaMaria was pursuing twin levels in regulation and social work at Case Western Reserve College. She was additionally a volunteer on the Rape Disaster Heart. Throughout her time on the Rape Disaster Heart she says she met and recommended a number of ladies who had been raped by a person later recognized as Ford.
“The ladies I labored with had been identified prostitutes and drug addicts, folks with histories with the felony justice system. It turned shortly clear to me that police weren’t actually focused on investigating their rapes. Although every of my shoppers had recognized the same profile of their attacker, I couldn’t get police to handle the priority that a serial rapist was at work. The victims had been thought-about nobodies,” mentioned GiaMaria.
She wonders if something has modified through the years. She mentioned she doubts it. Current Plain Seller tales have carefully documented persistent understaffing within the Intercourse Crime and Little one Abuse unit of the Cleveland Police Division. GiaMaria mentioned she doesn’t blame the police as a lot as she does a departmental tradition of inefficiency and scarce assets.
“I reached out to investigators proper after Naierra’s homicide. A Cleveland murder detective known as, and I missed him. I known as again twice and, for no matter cause, he didn’t return my calls. I think it is likely to be a case of him merely being overworked, which isn’t his fault. That’s a systemic downside. It’s why circumstances go chilly and unsolved.”
“I’m not saying my info would have made a distinction. However, I knew Naierra. I do know a few of the circles she traveled in. I knew a few of her patterns and behaviors. I don’t understand how she ended up in that area, however I do know one thing concerning the life she lived earlier than she died there,” mentioned GiaMaria.
Naierra’s killer left nothing to probability. She was shot a number of occasions within the torso and as soon as within the head. Glenville Councilman Kevin Conwell say neighbors advised him a police cruiser drove by the execution scene shortly after a 911 name was made, however no officer emerged from the automobile. Naierra’s corpse was found the subsequent morning by somebody strolling subsequent to the sphere.
The teenager had run away from dwelling her ultimate time.
Anybody with details about Naierra’s dying is inspired to contact Cleveland Police at 216-623-5464 or Cuyahoga County Crime Stoppers at 216-252-7463.
Current columns by Phillip Morris: