Human trafficking investigation ends in arrest

Jeremiah Eli Bessolo-Marsh, center, enters the courtroom for his arraignment in Department 1 of the Yolo County Superior Court on May 9. Photo by Julia Millon

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Winters Police Department Detective David Gonzalez landed the first major arrest in his role as the first official detective in department history.

A seven-month investigation resulted in the arrest of Jeremiah Bessolo-Marsh, a 21-year old Contra Costa County resident. He was transported from Contra Costa County Jail to Yolo County County Jail on May 4. Winters chief of police John Miller held a press conference along with Gonzalez and District Attorney Jeff Reisig at 11 a.m. on May 9 at the Public Safety Facility.

Bessolo-Marsh was booked on a warrant from the Winters Police Department and charged with 10 counts including human trafficking of a minor for commercial sex, oral copulation with a person under 18 years, distributing matter depicting sexual conduct by a minor, unlawful sexual intercourse when the minor is more than three years younger than the perpetrator, furnishing a controlled substance to a minor, three counts of dissuading a witness, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and violation of a protective order.

The victim of sex trafficking by Bessolo-Marsh is a Winters resident and minor who met the defendant at a party in September 2017.

According to Miller, the investigation began with WPD corporal Gordon Brown who handled investigations before the department was restructured to allow for a detective. Also serving as the school resources officer for Winters Joint Unified School District, Brown began an investigation into the victim’s relationship with Bessolo-Marsh from red flags raised by parents and at school.

Miller also credited Yolo County agencies Empower Yolo, Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center (MDIC), and the Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force and Human Trafficking Unit of the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office for contributing to the arrest. The MDIC responds to child abuse cases throughout the County to help victims bring perpetrators to justice, especially in instances where victims experience trauma and and confusion about the abuse.

Winters Chief of Police John Miller, center, answers a question at the press briefing on May 9 at the Public Safety Facility. District Attorney Jeff Reisig, left, and Detective David Gonzalez, right, also fielded questions about the case.
Photo by Julia Millon

According to Gonzales, Bessolo-Marsh used narcotics, including cocaine and methamphetamine, to maintain power and control over the victim. He added that the victim was psychologically controlled by Bessolo-Marsh.

“He would coach her on what to say when law enforcement was involved,” said Gonzalez.

“A minor can’t consent to sex acts; these kids are lured into this belief that these predators love them,” said Reisig, “It is brainwashing. Selling them, selling their images….it’s a complete farce, they’re under duress.”

Bessolo-Marsh was eventually located living in a tent near his former apartment with help from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department.

The victim, now clean from narcotics, is recovering.

“The victim is at a secure home, she is doing well, she is able to attend school,” said Gonzalez.

The victim ceased attending school during her involvement with Bessolo-Marsh.

“This is a modern-day form of slavery, and it’s happening everywhere…in a rural community on the corner of Yolo County.

“This is the second most profitable industry for organized crime; they are trading kids like they’re trading drugs and guns,” said Reisig.

Reisig said he office would be asking for a higher bail amount based on all of the counts against Bessolo-Marsh. Reisig, running for reelection in June, has built his career on being tough on crime in the County.

Both Miller and Resig took the opportunity to encourage parents to monitor their children’s social interactions.

At 1:30 p.m. on May 9, Bessolo-Marsh was arraigned in Yolo County Superior Court before Judge Sonia Cortés. Bessolo-Marsh entered the plea not-guilty. The District Attorney’s counsel requested a stacked bail for the amount of $325,000 for three separate instances of counts against Bessolo-Marsh; which would otherwise be $150,000.

Deputy Public Defender Dave Muller, appointed counsel for Bessolo-Marsh, contested the request, saying there was no reason for the bail to be set so high. The prosecution cited flight risk and Bessolo-Marsh’s previous violation of a protective order for the victim.

Cortés set the bail to the maximum $325,000.


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