A story of murder, robbery and alleged sex trafficking involving North Texas teenagers has two families and their lawyers making accusations and defending loved ones.
It involves the robbery of two men and murder of one of them on August 3, 2019 at an apartment complex on Northeast 5th Street in Grand Prairie.
Philip Baldenegro, 19, and Zephi Trevino, 16 are co-defendants along with a third young man who was 19 at the time.
Typically 16-year old juvenile suspects are not identified, but her parents gave permission to see her name and face because they want her story told.
They claim she is the victim of sex trafficking and Baldenegro is a perpetrator.
“She was lured and manipulated to do things that were not in her path in life to do. And this is a child we’re talking about,” said Crystal Trevino, the girl’s mother.
Baldenegro’s lawyer and family held a press conference Friday to refute those claims.
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“I didn't sex traffic her and I didn't do anything to harm her. I was treating her with respect, Philip Baldenegro said.
When her son turned himself in, his mother Claudia Baldenegro said Grand Prairie detectives told them they had had past dealings with the girl, who could not be found at the time.
“I am so sorry for all this tragic, for the families involved in this. We did tell my son to stay away from this little girl, but he never listened. He didn't listen, He was in love with her,” Claudia Baldenegro said.
His lawyer David Finn admitted that Baldenegro and Trevino lured the two victims to the Grand Prairie crime scene under the guise of having sex with the girl but really to rob the men. Victim Carlos Arajeni-Arriaza, 25, was killed by Baldenegro in a struggle with the gun, according to Finn. He said new records of text and email communication between Baldenegro and Trevino support his claims about the girl.
“She engineered, organized, executed the entire plan,” Finn said.
Instead of being a sex trafficker, Finn said his client is the victim of a smoke screen by the girl.
‘There’s not a single threat. There’s not a single ounce of coercion. There’s nothing about trafficking. So, if she was trafficked, it wasn’t Philip Baldenegro. This is boyfriend, girlfriend. He loved her,” Finn said. “I wouldn't be giving a statement if I didn't get bombarded with social media, Facebook, Go Fund Me, saying your guy is a sex trafficker.”
While Philip Baldenegro is free on bond after admitting he fired the weapon, Zephi Trevino remains confined in juvenile detention.
“The fact that a person who brutally murdered someone, an accused killer, isn’t telling the whole story about how he sex-trafficked young girls isn’t really surprising,” said Ashkan Mehryari, one of Trevino’s lawyers.
Records in Juvenile cases are not public and Mehryari said there are greater restrictions on juvenile information so he is not at liberty to discuss all the details that Trevino’s lawyers have seen.
“I don’t think any of us would put our name on it and make these allegations unless there was some evidence to corroborate it,” Mehryari said. “We believe the culpability lies on Philip.”
Her mother said Zephi Trevino should be at home instead of locked away.
“I don’t know what I can say but I can tell you this, that there was sex trafficking happening and my daughter was a victim. And Philip will have to face his day in court,” Crystal Trevino said.
The mother said she has learned that sex trafficking is not always a matter of victims being kidnapped. She wants other parents to be aware it can be happening right in the neighborhood where they live.