Meet Hope Zeferjohn
Hope Zeferjohn is a name everyone should know. Hope became a victim of human trafficking at such a young age and was neglected throughout her childhood. She was exploited by a person she thought loved and cared for her, but instead was manipulated. Hope was charged with 10 felonies and was sentenced for 15 years at the age of seventeen.
Hope was living in Salina, Kansas where she was the second born child to Terry and Melody. This was Terry's third marriage and also had two other children from previous marriages. Their family was very poor, violent, and was constantly looking for a source of income. At the age of 14, Hope was introduced to her older sister's boyfriend, 24 year old Anthony ‘Angel’ Long. It was known that Long had a record and was charged with domestic battery, assault, and criminal threats against an ex girlfriend in 2013. Hope had no idea that her life was about to change due to this predator.
Throughout her early childhood Hope lived up to her name, family would describe her as a “sweet, freckled faced tomboy” who would enjoy being outside. She was raised by narrow minded individuals who often forced on them “you bleed, you breed”, said her father. Meaning when they become of menstrual age they should start to have children. Therefore assuring them of a good source of income is getting financial help from the state. Hope described her home life as being good sometimes, as well as “sometimes it can be hectic because of all of us kids.” In January 2014, police arrived at the Zeferjohn’s house in a response call about Hope and another child in a fight. The officers discovered the neglect in the home and the failure to send their children to school. When the police came into their home one of the officers said, “ it's full of feces, full of trash and clothes everywhere. Roaches were out in the daytime because they were so infested”.
In August, 2014 The Kansas Department for Children and Families arranged for Hope, 15, to be sent to an ‘out-of-home placement’ in Salina. This was where she was charged with a misdemeanor battery charge. This is where Angel, Hope’s soon trafficker discovered where she was and deceived authorities into thinking she was her father and requested to inform him where she was staying. Zeferjohn said this is where the system failed me, they “allowed Anthony (Angel) to find out my address, where I was staying, by pretending like he was my father”. This is where Angel forced Hope to have a sexual relationship with him. Angel began making home videos of them having sex where he would sell them for money.
Hope was exploited and forced to bring home money, and whatever money she made was to be given to Angel. His intentions would soon turn devaint when he brought Hope back to Topeka and manipulated her into recruiting other girls for his “prostitution business,” which was organized through Facebook. This is where Hope became a “house mother” meaning she would cook, clean and make sure to keep the other women in line for Angel. Hope desperately tried to refuse but was threatened that there would be “hell to pay,” and that included beatings. Hope said they would be so severe that she has two miscarriages. In March, 2015, at the age of 16, Hope gave birth to her son Tye. Angel would use her son as blackmail by threatening to hurt Tye if she was ever to disobey him.
In June 2016, Hope was charged as an adult with 10 felonies: “aggravated human trafficking; conspiracy to commit rape; conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sodomy; indecent solicitation of a child; electronic solicitation of a child; aggravated intimidation and criminal threat. As well as being charged with two misdemeanors: “endangering a child and contributing to a child’s misconduct or deprivation”. The charges stem from when Hope helped Angel recruit a 14 year-old girl from her foster home through Facebook and offered the girl a place to live in exchange for sexual favors. Angel threatened he would kill her if she was to tell the authorities. Another instance was when Hope offered a 15 year-old girl drugs, which Angel would supply, in exchange for her to have sex with him as a payment method. He would also photograph her and Hope together. The 15 year-old reported back to authorities that Angel sold her to a man where she was forced to stay the weekend and was paid over six grand, which was all given to Angel.
In April 2017, Angel was sentenced to 35 years in prison where he pleaded guilty to “aggravted human trafficking, indcent solicitation of a child, electronic solicitation of a child and four counts of sexual explotation of a child”. Angel must register as a sex offender for 25 years whereas Hope is required to spend a lifetime on the registry. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay, stated that Zeferjohn was the “right hand of the organization” and was responsible for recruiting and identifying and locating targets for Angel’s “prostitution business”. Hope’s attorney, Vicki Smith, is trying for a pardon because she believes Hope was “forced to do things that would otherwise be inimaginable to you and I”. On the other hand, Kagay states that Hope must be “held accountable” because she was actively recruiting minors, but did not take into consideration that Hope was also a minor at the time under Kansas state law and had no authority or control under her trafficker. Hope was compelled to follow through with orders out of fear for her family as well as her own safety.
According to the DCF, Secretary Laura Howard recognized that the agency didn't do enough to help Hope as well as other girls like her. Stating that “there needs to be more done to protect children like Hope”, and improve the agencies learning abilities and strategies in preventing victims. The system has failed Hope and she currently still remains incarcerated and the earliest possibility for release is on August 26th, 2021. Due to these charges, Hope lost custody of her son, Tye, who was later adopted. Although Hope has been neglected and double victimized, she still wants a positive future. Hope not only wants to help speak up and show strength for other victims, but when she's released she wants to be able to get her son back and open her own restaurant.
Yours Truly in the Fight,