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Sex trafficking survivor initially freed by DeWine returns to prison

Alexis Martin served 7 years in prison for death of man who trafficked her
Posted at 12:20 PM, Apr 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-07 18:14:12-04

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — Two years after she was freed from prison by Governor Mike DeWine, Alexis Martin has been sent back to prison after her commutation was revoked for a parole violation, according to Middletown police.

Martin was 15 at the time of her arrest for planning the murder of Angelo Kierney, who had forced her into prostitution, and 17 when she received a sentence of 21 years to life in prison. Ohio’s Supreme Court chief justice acknowledged Tierney had kept Martin as “a forced sex slave,” but Martin was nonetheless tried as an adult for her role in his death.

According to Associated Press reporting and court documents, Martin and a female friend enlisted two men to rob Tierney and his brother at gunpoint. The would-be robbers entered the home while Martin and her friend were being raped; in the ensuing confrontation, Tierney and his brother were both shot.

Martin was tried and convicted as an adult and served seven years behind bars. DeWine signed for her release from prison in 2020, but that release came with restrictions: Martin was released under a 14-year parole.

Her parole conditions include an ankle bracelet, inability to leave the state, therapy, anger management and medication. Another condition of her parole is she can’t speak to anyone else who is also on parole, not even over the phone, including some members of her family and Patterson.

Another condition of her parole required her to be subject to random checks from parole officers. According to Middletown police, during one of those checks in her Middletown apartment, parole officers discovered a loaded handgun, a 9mm handgun, 2 bags of marijuana and "a large sum" of cash. The parole officers called Middletown police, who then obtained a search warrant for the apartment.

The search unearthed ammunition, 26 grams of cocaine, digital scales, 45 grams of marijuana, a 9mm gun, a Glock 27, $4,378 and an unknown substance police sent to a lab for testing.

Martin and two men who were with her were taken into custody; her attorney, Jennifer Kinsley, argued at a hearing that Martin did not know the drugs or guns were in her apartment. Kinsley said the items belonged to one of the men arrested, who was in the process of moving in to Martin's apartment.

“The contraband was found in moving boxes and furniture with male belongings,” Kinsley told The Washington Post. “We argued that the contraband did not belong to Alexis and the evidence suggested she was not aware it was in the apartment.”

Martin was booked into the Middletown jail and later transferred into state custody, Middletown police said.

Martin's story became a cause celebre among advocates of criminal justice reform in 2020 after her release was championed by reality star-turned-activist Kim Kardashian West’s Oxygen documentary, "Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project."

The documentary revealed that, while in prison, Martin earned her GED, become a certified dog trainer and ran a group for survivors of human trafficking.

In 2020, after her release, Martin spoke with WCPO about her relationship with Kerney and the events leading up to her incarceration.

“He was very enchanting. He was, and I can't put it anywhere else besides very fatherly,” Martin said in 2020.

Kerney became her sex trafficker when she was just 14.

“Ultimately, him and one of his brothers were the only people that was allowed to abuse me across the board, unless you paid for it. Unless you pay to abuse me, you weren't allowed.”

Martin said she realized she was being sold for sex when she was told she couldn’t go to school anymore. The moment she knew she needed to escape was much worse.

“In front of other men, Angelo made me get naked and bow down on the kitchen table. He poured beer on me,” Martin said. “I had to go, and that was the turning point."

According to her legal team in 2020, Martin was 15 when she reached out to a friend to help her escape.

Martin spent much of her time after her release focused on helping others get through traumas. Martin said in 2021 she had hopes of going to Ohio State University to develop her business, an outreach program for at-risk youth. She said she wanted her program to offer counseling, jobs and tutoring.

"Every butterfly has to fight out of its cocoon," Martin said. "It just doesn't crack open for you. You have to fight to reach that beauty. So don't give up."