A rare statistic: Port Clinton woman escapes from human trafficking

Apr 16, 2024 | Featured, Around Ottawa County | 0 comments

Katlyn Sheppard, right, was saved from human trafficking by Ottawa County Major Crimes Unit Officer, Trevor Johnson. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

BY SHERI TRUSTY

Over and over again throughout her life, Katlyn Sheppard of Port Clinton pushed aside her fears and clothed herself with bravery. It took bravery and cunning to fight her way out of the slavery of human trafficking. It took bravery and perseverance to enter Ottawa County Mental Health Court, where she successfully battled opioid addiction. On April 12, it took bravery and the strength of humility to stand before dozens of Sentinel Career & Technology Center students and tell her story of addiction and human trafficking.

Sheppard visited the school with Trevor Johnson, an agent for the Ottawa County Major Crimes Unit and an officer with the Ottawa County Drug Abuse Response Team (DART) and Ottawa County SWAT. The pair visit schools to discourage students from using drugs by educating them on the lifelong dangers.

Sheppard’s life was supposed to be very different. She grew up in a home free of drugs and alcohol where she was loved and encouraged. College was in her plans, but a few early decisions led to drug addiction and the vulnerability that accompanies it.

“I thought I was the exception. I thought this couldn’t happen to me,” she said.

Trevor Johnson of the Ottawa County Major Crimes Unit talks with Sentinel Career & Technology Center students about the dangers of drug use. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

Sheppard had her first run-in with the law at age 13 and was arrested for the first time at age 16.

“That was my first time dabbling with marijuana and other substances. I got an OVI and possession charge,” she said.

In time, her drug use deepened.

“I didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘I want to try heroine today,’” she said. “It started with weed and alcohol. Those choices led me to make the next choices. I was dabbling with serious drugs because I started with weed.”

Eventually, in a vulnerable, drug-sick moment, she made the decision to engage with a stranger. That decision turned her into a human trafficking victim in Toledo. She was groomed, fueled with all the drugs she wanted, and enslaved for six months.

Because of a felony charge, she was on Johnson’s radar. He could reach her by phone, and he knew she was in danger, but he didn’t know where to find her. He reached out to her more than once, trying to convince her to turn herself in so she could get the help she needed.

Katelyn Sheppard, left, and Trevor Johnson presented a talk on the lifelong dangers of drug use to Sentinel students on April 12. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“He told me, ‘We’re here to help you,’” Sheppard said. “But I thought I was worthless because of all I had done.”

On New Year’s Eve, 2017, Sheppard hit rock bottom and landed on a glimmer of hope.

“I had all the drugs I wanted, but I wasn’t with my family, and I was locked in a room,” she said. “I decided I didn’t want to do this anymore.”

With Johnson’s help, Sheppard became a rare statistic. She became one of the very few who escape human trafficking.

“Trevor saved my life,” she said.

Now, Sheppard is saving countless lives by bravely telling her story over and over again in the hope that it won’t be repeated in someone else’s life.

“I live a beautiful life today,” she said.

Trevor Johnson, left, and Katlyn Sheppard, second from right, talk to students after presenting a talk on the dangers of drug use at Sentinel Career & Technology Center in Tiffin. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

Several Seneca County leaders attended the event, including Seneca County Commissioner Bill Frankart; Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Ottawa, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties Executive Director Mircea Handru; Seneca County Common Pleas Judge Steve Shuff; Seneca County Common Pleas Judge Damon Alt; and Seneca County Director of Court Services Kendra Shearer.

“I really want to thank Trevor Johnson for his relentless dedication to helping Katlyn find her way back home and to her family,” Frankart said. “Her story shows that, in a matter of a short time, you can be in a helpless situation.”

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