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UofM student, rape victim gets justice with conviction

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 10:41 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2021 at 8:38 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Shelby County criminal court jury found a man already on the sex offender registry guilty of rape involving a University of Memphis (UofM) student who thought she was going to work as an escort.

District Attorney Amy Weirich says it’s a crime that happens more than you might think.

“What we want to do in the DA’s office, what we need to be focusing on is catching the Willie Taylor’s of the community and throughout the state to keep them from victimizing more young people,” Weirich.

Weirich is talking about 39-year-old Willie Taylor. Testimony revealed in 2018, a freshman at the UofM was befriended online by a woman working with Taylor as a prostitute and recruiter who told her she could make money working as an escort. The teen said she thought the job would not involve sex.

The woman picked her up at the dorm in a car that Taylor was waiting in. Prosecutors say they drove to a motel in Whitehaven and Taylor raped her and made her pose for suggestive photos to post online to attract customers. When the 18-year-old student got back to the dorm, she called police.

“Thank goodness this young lady had the courage to pick up the phone and call police and thank goodness she had the courage to sit there and go through a trial, take the stand, and to tell that jury what she went through,” Weirich said.

Weirich points out the case of Terrance “T-Rex” Yarbrough, who was convicted in 2013 for sex trafficking and food stamp fraud after 10 women testified, saying Yarbrough branded them as his slaves by having ‘T-Rex’ tattooed on them. The women said he beat them with belts, crowbars and dog chains. Weirich says that is how sex traffickers keep victims in check.

Weirich says the customers come from all walks of life. In 2017, Ron Garrison, the former head of MATA, was caught up in a human trafficking sting. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor under an Alford plea.

Taylor has been on the sex offender registry since 2007 for a sexual battery conviction. He has a pending aggravated rape cold case from 2005 involving a 16-year-old girl.

Taylor is behind bars and will be sentenced at a later date.

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