Cami was a loving mother who had been through some tough times but finally seemed like she was getting her life back on track when she went missing.
Cami was born in Thailand April 1, 1975 she and her twin brother Kim were adopted by Their mom Erlene S Shepherd.
Cami went to school and grew up in Holladay, Utah but sadly lost her mom to breast cancer at age 15. Her sister knew better than anyone her sister’s lengthy history of abuse, selling sex on the street, and years of meth use. She’d tried to be there when she could to support Cami’s struggles to pick herself up after each relapse.
Her sister knew better than anyone her sister’s lengthy history of abuse, selling sex on the street, and years of meth use. She’d tried to be there when she could to support Cami’s struggles to pick herself up after each relapse.
Finally, it seemed, with the help of a support network made up of family, friends, church members and nonprofits dedicated to the homeless and victims of sex trafficking She was making a turn in her life for the good.
She’d moved into her first apartment after more than a decade on the street and found work at the local Deseret Industries thrift store. And Cami had found a purpose: She had gone back to school to start the long journey to become a prosecutor for the state or federal government, so she could personally bring to justice the kind of men who had preyed on her when she was on the streets.
At the time of her disappearance, she had attempted repeatedly to get the police to draw attention to her concerns about sex trafficking. According to her family, they were ignored.
Her friends and family said it wasn’t unusual for her to not have contact with anyone for a few weeks but she always did contact someone within a few weeks to let everyone know she was okay. She was claimed to be missing on February 2nd 2018 and was found deceased on April 6 2018
Two weeks before she was reported missing her sister received this voice mail.
A voicemail from Cami stated her phone got stolen do not send text messages or anything.
West Valley City police say around 12:30 p.m., they received a call from a crew working construction at 4100 South Redwood Road and the site of an old Kmart store.
April 6th Her body was found. Behind a vacant K-mart in a sewage drain, A survey crew stumbled upon a body in a sewage drain. The confirmed it was Cami. Police claimed that Cami went into the drain to keep warm. Her family doesn’t buy it. Her apartment is directly behind the spot where her body was found. If she was cold she would have gone home.
Her autopsy confirmed that there were no signs of a struggle. There is also not any information if the autopsy confirmed if there were drugs in her system or not.
Last year it is to believe that that person who was logging into Cami’s go-fundme account and posting it to her facebook trying to collect money on Cami’s behalf. It continued from April to November The person who owns the gofund me was Brenda Combs. The gofund me has been taken down since but you can view her facebook here.
Cami’s sister says she has sent screenshots anytime someone logged into her sisters’ account and sent them to the WPD and she has also requested that her cellphone to be tracked and those requests have gone unheard. Her sister feels like they haven’t made her a priority at any point in this investigation.
Kristi was increasingly frustrated with West Valley detective assigned to her sister’s case. She was uncertain what if anything the police were doing. She worried that because of Cami’s history of drugs and sex work, her disappearance wasn’t taken seriously. “If I was missing, they would have looked harder,” she said. “I felt the family had to do more because the police were doing nothing.”
West Valley City Police Chief Colleen Jacobs disagreed. “Our detectives have been in areas she was known to frequent, shelters, homeless camps,” she said a few weeks into the time Cami that went missing. “We will investigate every avenue we have available to us.”
Now, in no way am I stating she is wrong we don’t always know what goes on behind the scenes of an investigation. If anyone has listened to Cold we know that there is a lot of things that the police don’t tell us or even lead us on to knowing because they can’t let the killer know they are on to them if they are ever going to make an arrest. My first thought on hearing this was maybe they have mapped out her phone records and have found the ping as to where her last location was and where her phone was stolen and where the last person was who sent those facebook messages was. We don’t know this information maybe they have done nothing. But if anything that listening to cold has taught me is that there is a whole bunch behind the scenes stuff that we don’t get to know about.
We do know the detectives claim they have been investigating the case they went to the DA’s office to get a search warrant for cell phone records belonging to Cami Sheppard. So, therefore, they are not able to legally search her phone. I am unsure if the families personal private detective has done any geo forensics.
What someone does with a cell phone to track it is called Geo forensics I learned this at Def con among other things…. (aka how to hack butt plugs and furry parties but that’s another story) They basically can ping where the last location of the phone was last located. It can also be used to ping other phones in that same area.
Kristi took her sister shopping at a nearby Deseret Industries thrift store with a voucher Cami got from the bishop at a local congregation. The sisters picked out a comforter, pillowcases and dishes for Cami’s new home. On the front door she hung a picture of Jesus Christ to mark her home as Christian. She shared the studio apartment with two cats, Hope and Faith, and occasionally an injured pigeon she would try to nurse back to health. Pigeons and doves were angels, she would tell her friends, and if they were close then she was safe.
She’d also signed up with Salt Lake Community College for computer basics classes, the only problem being that she didn’t have a computer to do homework on. Nevertheless, she was determined to fulfill her dreams of going to law school and prosecuting traffickers. And she had the perfect playing card, she’d tell friends, to show jurors that she had survived the world victims came from: a missing tooth in her bright, defiant smile, knocked out by an old boyfriend.
Adapting to life inside four walls wasn’t easy, said cousin Arlen Shepherd. She’d feel alone, leave for a day or two, then go back. Over time, she felt safe enough to sleep in her bed and know no one would hurt her.
Arlen Shepherd tried to get her to keep her home “a safe haven,” he said, and not let people in. But that ran contrary to the unwritten rule of the homeless, born out of the interdependency that life on the demands of the street, which is to always offer help when you can to others. So she’d let in someone she’d grown to trust, such as a homeless mother with a child. Word got around where she lived, however, and soon she complained to friends that people seeking a place to sleep would try to kick her door down if she didn’t let them in.
Cami’s determination to change meant she would try to do too much, Kristi worried. “She tried to stay clean, go to school and work and it would get stressful and she would cave,” Kristi said.
The pressures built up in November 2017, when she started dating a 42-year–old carpenter and neighbor. The carpenter requested anonymity out of concern over local traffickers possibly connected with Cami’s disappearance.
They watched movies and cooked meals at each other’s apartments. She’d bake and fry chicken, while he made soul food. He gave her a painting he’d done of a Chinese junk forging out to sea, waves crashing against a rocky shoreline. But Cami struggled with how to respond and act around “a regular guy,” as opposed to a “john,” several sex workers said she told them.
Her sister’s fate washed over her. It was as if her heart had been ripped from her chest.
As painful as that was for Kristi, what one of the detectives then told her made the situation far harder to bear. The way the cops saw it, she had brought her death on herself. The detective suggested to Kristi that the 120-pound Cami had somehow lifted the 150-pound rusted lid off the drainage on her own and crawled down into the watery depths to get out of the cold.
Numb with disbelief, Kristi stared at him, realizing that the officers viewed her sister as one more addict whose drug-related death didn’t merit a serious investigation. Cami had always been afraid of water since as a very young child she’d fallen into a canal in Thailand and almost drowned. She could never have lifted the lid on her own. And why would she? Her apartment was a minute’s walk away.
“If we don’t have any leads,” the detective continued, “I’m just preparing you that we may have to close the case.”
The detectives got into their car and drove off. As the door shut, Kristi fell to her knees in shock, confusion and wordless rage at how they had blamed Cami for her own demise. “I was having such a hard time processing it all, that it even happened,” she said. “It was like it was just a bad dream.”
In a text sent to ABC4, the spokesperson for the police department said: “It is our understanding that Cami did not have her phone for two weeks prior to her disappearance. We consulted with the district attorney’s office regarding obtaining a search warrant for the phone and it was determined that seeking a search warrant would not be possible because although Cami Shepherd’s death is suspicious, there is no evidence that would classify it as a homicide or prove that a crime was committed that led to her death. Without proof of a crime, we are unable to get a search warrant.”
The families private investigator theory is that she died and someone panicked and threw her body in there. Either she died and that person didn’t want to bring light onto themselves or there is the foul play here.
This is why having a if I go missing is so important and why this story hit me hard. I think everyone needs and if I go missing folder. If they had it in Cami’s case they could have accessed her Cell phone records and Social media and might have more of a lead than what they already have. Especially if there was possibly foul play involved
No suspects or person of interest have been named at this time this has been called an accidental suicide.
Jensen the families private detective said one can’t rule out that person yet. He said Cami Shepherd was either victimized two different times by two different people or victimized twice by the same person.
He still wants to find the person behind the cell phone text and is seeking information about who was with Cami on the night she disappeared.
Jensen wonders if there was some sort of an accident and someone panicked before dumping Shepherd’s body in the drain. If that’s the case, he says, the person would be smart to come forward immediately and offer an explanation.
“It’s just a matter of time that they’ll be caught, so they need to come forward and we can mitigate the damages,” he said.
Either some foul play was done here or just a freak accident or drugs were taken place. But these questions still remain. Who had Cami’s phone, why were they posting on her facebook? Who was with Cami when she died? Who moved her body into the train. And the most important question why?
What do you think happened Aubrey?
If she had been doing drugs and overdosed the person or people with her may of panicked and dumped her body int the drain in order to not get caught or blamed for her death. Cami was also known for her drug use if some type of drugs were being used it could of giving someone a reason to freak out when she overdosed a panic.
Or did something more sinister happen? With her acts of change kindness and her time and effort into the not for sale non-profit group did she happen to know something being in that lifestyle in her past did she know something someone didn’t want her to know? Was this foul play or an accident?
So there is something I think that needs to be said.
Across America, homeless women sell sex in no-tell motels or on the street to pay for a room night by night and for the drugs they need. They work in the back streets and blight-ridden thoroughfares of cities that are forgotten by city planners and the suburbs alike — unless you want to score drugs or pay for sex.
Because the women are housed, in the barest sense of the word, they are not included in the federal-government organized, national homeless census, Point in Time.
“They’re not counted, they’re not visible,” said Luciane Fangalua, who met Cami while chairing the Utah League of Women Voters’ human trafficking task force in early 2016, which sought to educate policymakers and legislators about the complex issue. “We don’t want them to exist. They’re an invisible group that we use and discard.”
These women are the forgotten casualties to be found at the intersection of homelessness, poverty, sexual violence and addiction. And it’s the desperate cravings of addiction that pull them into the world of trafficking, one fix at a time.They’re not counted, they’re not visible. We don’t want them to exist. They’re an invisible group that we use and discard. – Luciane Fangalua
As children victimized by traffickers and predators, only to be rescued by Tim Ballard’s Operation Underground Railroad, they attract both sympathy and support. But as adults, they age out of the compassion they would have received as a child.
“We have a great deal of compassion as a public for children who suffer neglect and violence, but we don’t necessarily reach all the victims to help them,” said Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall, a longtime advocate for street sex workers, many of whom live and work in her district. “When we don’t reach them, the outcome for some is that they end up as an adult in sexual exploitation and human trafficking.”
And they could be anyone. Cami’s story is just one example of a daughter raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by a dedicated single mother. She had siblings who tried all they could to support her, no matter the choices she made. While she was never interviewed by a reporter, through extensive interviews with family, friends, street sex workers, advocates, counselors, law enforcement and attorneys, a portrait emerged of a complex, determined woman who refused to be broken by predatory men or the lifestyle some subjected her to in exchange for drugs.
Women and men who sell sex have many names. Words like “whore,” “hooker” and “prostitute” have been rejected by trafficking survivors and their advocates for the moralizing and criminalizing baggage they carry, while contemporary terms like sex worker are viewed by some as problematic, because they imply a freedom of choice, rather than coercion by others or factors like addiction and poverty.
“When you’re talking about sex work, there’s a moral, political and social history to it,” said University of Utah professor Annie Isabel Fukushima, a consultant for the national anti-trafficking network, National Freedom USA, after a reporter referenced issues surrounding language.
“Just call her Cami. That’s who she is. She’s Cami.”
In Salt Lake City, homeless and medical services outreach nonprofits estimate a population of between 500 and 600 street sex workers. In this twilight world, women like Cami appear on the street, then disappear, their fate unknown.
Nationwide, the number of sex trafficking survivors is at an “epidemic level” said Laura Lederer, a state department adviser on sex trafficking. Not that she has hard statistics to back her claim; for all the talk of so many politicians about the moral imperative of fighting human trafficking, the U.S. government has yet to fund a national trafficking study. The best she can point to, in order to substantiate her claim, is the rising number of homeless youth in the U.S.
A 2017 research study by the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola University, conducted at youth shelters in 13 cities in the U.S. and Canada, found 15 percent of homeless youth are sex-trafficked, with young women and LGBTQ youth particularly impacted. The National Network for Youth estimates that 4.2 million youth from ages 13 to 25 experience homelessness, which means that at minimum over 630,000 youth each year are victims of sex trafficking.
That’s the equivalent of a city the size of Boston.
Many are runaways, some fleeing abuse at home, others escaping violence at a foster care home. Many homeless youth simply age out of the foster care system and end up on the streets with nowhere to go. This is where invisible lives begin, with homeless youth sleeping in cars, couch-surfing, engaging in survival sex in exchange for a bed for the night, most haunted by the trauma of abuse they experienced as a child.
“Women use because of childhood and adolescent trauma,” said Matt Pierce, who for 18 months, until April 2018, did medical outreach in a supplies-stocked van in Salt Lake City several days a week for a local homeless nonprofit.
“Addiction and opiates, particularly heroin, numb the body and mind to old experiences,” but sex work only compounds existing trauma, he said.
Society, Lederer said, deals with homelessness, addiction and trafficking as separate issues.
“In reality these disparate issues are inextricably bound together,” said Lederer, who has interviewed more than 300 survivors in 22 cities, learning in the process that 84 percent were addicted. Cami’s story, she said, “is emblematic of the complexity of this problem,” in that for her, as for so many, all these problems intersect and start to spill out into public view, with tragic consequences.
“Survivors tell you everybody likes a nice victim, no one likes an angry, devastated person,” Lederer said. “These aren’t pretty stories. It’s the opposite of ‘Pretty Woman.’ And it’s very hard to put them back together again. We just have to do better. There’s just so many people we are failing.”Survivors tell you everybody likes a nice victim, no one likes an angry, devastated person. These aren’t pretty stories. … We just have to do better. There’s just so many people we are failing. – Laura Lederer, a state department adviser on sex trafficking
Victims and survivors of sex trafficking come from every strata of society, from the impoverished to the wealthy. Traffickers hang out at the homeless shelter, the corner store, or the suburban mall, always looking “for someone in need of something,” said Utah Attorney General veteran trafficking prosecutor Russell Smith. He related the story of a Nevada FBI agent who, despite having his daughter’s boyfriend to dinner, had no idea the 19-year-old was grooming his 17-year-old daughter for prostitution. The two first met when he struck up a casual conversation with her at a mall.
Traffickers can range from a boyfriend or a roommate who uses drugs and coercion as a means of controlling their victim, through a solo operator illegally running out of a motel, a nail salon or a massage parlor — what law enforcement call commercial sex operations, typically staffed with women held by fraud and coercion. From there it extends to gangs running women on a few streets or out of hotels through online sex ads, to highly organized international criminal operations that traffic women from one country to another.
Traffickers, whether alone or in groups, exploit vulnerabilities, and they’re not always male. Smith recalled one woman who loved to brag about how she had “used a Utah citizen’s disability as a way to manipulate them into performing commercial sex acts.”
Victims-in-waiting, Smith said, “are not hard to find.”
“It impacts people across gender, class, ability and background,” Fukushima said. “It touches people regardless of their income and capital.”
If Cami is a poster-person for sex trafficking victims, she’s also somewhat unique in her determination to bring traffickers to justice and emblematic of the challenges survivors face in trying to tell their stories.
For years she tried to report her traffickers to police departments and state investigators when the majority of survivors out of fear or mistrust would have nothing to do with reporting a crime. She wrote an anonymous article in early 2016 about her life for an educational study on trafficking prepared by nonpartisan policy group Utah League of Women Voters that went to Utah legislators. She held a public event on March 2016 in Liberty Park to tell people about trafficking. But trauma, meth-induced paranoia, and other issues derailed her attempts to give law enforcement information that could lead to arrests.
“The only reason nothing gets done is that we are drug addicts and homeless,” Cami wrote in an April 2017 Facebook post.
If she couldn’t get cops and prosecutors to bring them down, she vowed to become an instrument of justice for other trafficked women. So she decided to go to school and eventually prosecute the men herself.
One cop who worked with Cami and believed she was a victim of traffickers was Salt Lake City Police Sgt Michele Ross. She was convinced that behind the paranoia and incoherence that dogged Cami’s repeated attempts to get justice, there lay a traumatic history of sex trafficking. “For one person to be so persistent, makes me believe there was something to it,” Ross said. “You just don’t see it very often. There has to be something there.”