HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — What started as a financial crime ended up with Hendersonville police charging two people with kidnapping and human trafficking.
It all started on Sept. 28 when Hendersonville Flex Teams were surveilling a local parking lot that had reportedly had several issues.
The officers spotted an SUV drop off a man who walked a long distance across the parking lot to enter a local bank. When the man exited the bank, police said he appeared lost.
According to police, that’s when the SUV reemerged, honking a horn to get the man’s attention.
Around that time, the people in the SUV saw an approaching Flex officer and instead of picking up the man who has just exited the bank, the SUV drove away.
Police watched the man who exited the bank for a few minutes as he wanders into a nearby supermarket. Officers approached the man and began a discussion.
According to Hendersonville Police Det. Felipe Pulliam, who was called to the scene, the 33-year-old man had attempted to pass a bogus check at the bank. The bank did not accept the check which was for more than $1,000.
Additionally, Pulliam said the man was unhoused and had a significant brain injury.
The unhoused man out of Nashville told the detective, the people in the SUV, Marquis Lashawn Watford and Chelsie Lynn Walker, picked him up, promised him money, and then told him they wanted him to cash a check. He said he protested and the couple allegedly threatened to harm him if he did not comply.
An intense investigation led Hendersonville police to Paducah, KY, where Chelsie Walker was arrested on other outstanding warrants.
Because there was not enough evidence at the time, Marquis Watford was allowed to leave.
Police told News 2, as the case unfolded, in addition to Tennessee, the couple was suspected of doing similar crimes in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, Indiana, and Illinois.
A few days later, detectives got evidence to charge both people locally. They were charged with attempted theft over $1,000, criminal simulation, kidnapping, and human trafficking.
When asked about the unusual charge of human trafficking in a financial crime, Pulliam said, “He was threatened, he felt if he didn’t go through with the act, he could possibly be killed. That is no different than a young lady being kidnapped and stuck in a hotel room and being used for sexual gratification for another person. When we have people come into our city and commit these types of crimes, we take it very seriously and we will not allow it to occur.”
Pulliam continued, “We see it all over the country, departments allow criminal acts to go unpunished. That will not happen here. If you come to Hendersonville and do dirt, you will be arrested and you will be charged to the fullest.
The 29-year-old woman is currently in the Sumner County Jail. Her bond is $147,000. She is scheduled to be back in court Oct. 12.
Police said the 28-year-old Watford is in Fayetteville, N.C. where he stays at his mother’s home.
The unhoused man was not charged.