Missing 16-year-old from Affton found safe

Mother of missing teen fears human trafficking
Mother of missing teen fears human trafficking
Published: Sep. 4, 2023 at 6:16 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 12, 2023 at 3:04 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - St. Louis County Police said a missing 16-year-old Affton girl has been found safe.

Juliana Lewis hadn’t been seen since Aug. 22, according to her mother, Julia Johnson. St. Louis County police announced she was found safe on Sept. 12.

“Everything was usual. I went to bed about 11 o’clock, and when I woke up at six in the morning to go check on her, she was gone,” Johnson recalled about her daughter’s disappearance.

Johnson told First Alert 4 at the time that she believed her daughter ran away with a Hispanic man she met online. She said her daughter texted a friend that the man was being controlling and then Juliana’s social media accounts were deleted.

“It’s possible it could be a trafficking situation, where the grooming starts and the controlling starts and leads to that. Or he could be just an abusive partner where he wants her all to himself. And that makes me think she could be held against her will,” Johnson said at the time.

Johnson and others distributed 2,300 missing person fliers at places that Lewis frequented or might go. Samantha Alejo saw a post on social media about Juliana’s disappearance and wanted to help.

“There are strangers on the internet who are reaching out to young teenagers and coercing them to leave their families,” she said.

Alejo said she was the victim of human trafficking starting at the age of 16, the same age as Lewis. She said when she learned about Lewis’ younger teenage years, she became increasingly concerned.

“What’s a huge red flag for me is when I found out more about Juliana’s past. She has been taken advantage of and manipulated in the past,” she said.

Alejo created a GoFundMe account to raise money for Johnson so she could hire a private detective.

Johnson said she had stopped working and was searching full-time to find her daughter.