Police: Woman killed at Double Tree Hotel also victim of sex trafficking

PORTLAND, Ore. - A Vancouver woman found murdered inside her Northeast Portland hotel Friday morning was a victim of sex trafficking, according to Portland Police.

Portland Police held a press conference Sunday on the latest development in Ashley Renee Benson's case, but said they aren't sure if it is related to her death.

Detectives are saying little about the investigation, only that Benson is the victim of "homicidal violence." An autopsy conducted Saturday determined the cause of Benson's death.

Her death was reported at around 10:45 a.m. Friday. The 24-year-old's body was found in a stairway at the Double Tree Hotel on Multnomah Street.

Police said they don't have any information about who the suspect may be.

"In a case like this where there are no apparent witness to the incident, the people who know the details are the people directly involved," Pete Simpson, public information officer for Portland Police said. "And in this case that would be the killer, so we don't want to release too much information that could taint the investigation."

Benson's mother went to the Double Tree near the Lloyd Center mall looking for her daughter on Friday, saying she was worried after she wasn't able to get in contact with her.

Benson's family tells KATU News they didn't know Benson was a sex trafficking victim until they heard it on the news.

Michelle Bart, with the National Women's Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation, says there's a big difference between police labeling someone a prostitute and (as in Benson's case) a victim of sex trafficking.

"Unwillingly, that it's part of a ring. The law enforcement agency must know something," said Michelle Bart.

Police aren't saying how long they think Benson was victimized.

If you have more information on the case, contact Detective Michele Michaels at (503) 823-0692 (michele.michaels@portlandoregon.gov) or Detective Bryan Steed at (503) 823-0395 (bryan.steed@portlandoregon.gov).

Family members said they didn't notice anything different about Benson when they saw her on Christmas Day, just 21 hours before she was found dead at the hotel. Benson told her father she was going to a movie with friends Thursday.

Bart says contact with family is rare in cases like this.

"A lot of the time in human trafficking cases, the victims are not able to live one place and they're not living apart from the criminal activity or their abusers," Bart said.

Benson's friends took to KATU News' Facebook page to express their grief over her loss.

"So sorry, baby. I hope your family and (especially your) beautiful son can get through this with (God's) help," wrote one friend.

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Post by KATU News.
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