My name is Kevin Kimmel, and I’ve been employed by Conway Truckload for nearly six years. This being a second career, it has been a learning experience on many levels.
My exposure to human trafficking happened on Jan. 7, 2015 after making two night deliveries. By chance after getting unloaded, I located a truck stop in New Kent County, Virginia that was located on the way to my next load. This truck stop was a national chain and a fairly new facility located in a rural area of the state. I make this point only to show that this insidious crime is occurring everywhere, not just large inner cities.
When I arrived to take my 10-hour break, it was daybreak, so most of the trucks were gone and parking was plentiful. Two slots over from me was an older RV that struck me as odd. In my experience, these vehicles generally parked in the front and were usually in nice condition. Additionally, they were usually operated by seniors that didn’t like night driving and were gone by daylight. Not this one. It was an older model, and the windows were shaded with black shades. This didn’t look like the happy family vehicle most of us associate with RV users.
Anyway, I was still in the driver seat finishing up paperwork when I saw a middle-aged man walking to the RV. I figured him to be the owner, and even when he knocked on the door, I thought it was just for security being they were parked in a truck stop. Next I see him exit the vehicle and head into the truck stop, only to return a couple minutes later to knock again for entry. A few minutes later the RV was rocking, and not in the musical sense. Well, now my gut was telling me this wasn’t a family vacation kind of thing. After about 15 minutes, the rocking stopped and everything was calm. I kept looking over at it to confirm it was in fact what I thought it was, and then I saw what looked like a young lady peering out from the blackout shade, only to be quickly pulled back and the shade recovered the window. I’m flabbergasted wondering what the hell I just saw.
Another truck, driven by a couple, pulled in and backed into the slot separating the RV from me. My view was blocked, but my mind was telling me I had to do something. After a couple of minutes, I put the driver’s side window down and motioned to the couple next to me to roll down their window, which they did. I went on to tell them what I had seen and asked them what they though and what they could see. I also knew I needed to get sleep before my next load. They didn’t seem too concerned and soon pulled their curtain, so I came down to needing to make a decision. I could act on my gut feeling or write it off. That’s when I got out my smart phone and googled local police, made the call and told the dispatcher what I had seen. They said a car would be sent over, and in less than five minutes I had two sheriff cruisers and two trooper cruisers in front of the RV.
Now it was time to contact my dispatcher and fill him in on what I’d gotten myself involved with, and his response was to keep them informed. He contacted my next customer and informed them that we needed to pick a different pick-up time. I couldn’t see the RV, but I watched all four officers head towards the door of the vehicle and, in short order, I witnessed a female trooper walking toward her car with an extremely disheveled young lady, who was not handcuffed, and placed her in the front seat of her cruiser. Shortly thereafter, an ambulance came in, and she was moved to it. Next, another female was brought out handcuffed and was patted down before being put in the backseat of a sheriff’s vehicle, only to be followed by a male in handcuffs that was patted down and led to the backseat of the other sheriff car. That’s when a sheriff and the female trooper came to my window and asked if I was the one that made the call, even though the dispatcher had taken down my name, company and truck number, I told them I was. They said that I probably saved that girl’s life and could I stick around to give a statement which I responded yes, of course. I asked them what was going on, and they told me that they couldn’t comment, because there would be a full investigation and I may be called on to testify. I notified my dispatcher, and he said to do whatever was needed, and we will take care of the load later.
I ended up giving statements to the sheriff and the FBI. Not until the next day did I learn what was going on next to me. Apparently the young lady had been kidnapped two weeks prior from Iowa. They had been torturing, starving, raping and selling her as they crossed the country. I did get a call from the young lady, and she thanked me and called me her hero or guardian angel. I told her thank you, and that my wish for her was that she find a way to get through this nightmare and go on to live a happy and healthy life.
While I knew trafficking was a problem, I had no idea the extent. Through reading and groups like TAT, I now know better how to spot the signs and spread the word whenever I get a chance. Each day there are approximately three million commercial drivers on the road, and with our help and vigilance, we can make this crime a lot harder on the scum that perpetuate it and support it.