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Sting leads to arrests of prostitutes, men

Jun. 24, 2013 @ 11:30 PM

HUNTINGTON -- A sting focused on four blocks of 6th Avenue resulted in 17 women being charged with prostitution, 19 men cited for trying to pick up an undercover officer in a reverse sting and one man facing a felony charge for pimping out a juvenile.

The Huntington Police Department on Monday released information about the prostitution sting, which started in mid-March and focused on 6th Avenue between 2nd through 6th streets. Capt. Rocky Johnson said it was all possible because of the community.

"It all started with numerous complaints from people who live and work there," Johnson said. "If they think people aren't watching, they're wrong. They are watching and they are calling."

He said those providing tips were specific about what the girls looked like and were wearing, while also providing information about the vehicles picking up the girls. That prompted the reverse sting in May, he said.

All the men were first-time offenders and were issued citations to appear in Huntington Municipal Court. Johnson said many times, men are embarrassed that they've been caught. But he did say it was troubling that nine of the 19 who men were from outside Huntington.

"I'm a little surprised by that," he said. "That guys from out of the state and area can manage to come into Huntington and find 6th Avenue and exactly where to go and what they are looking for."

Drugs often play a role in the women who are arrested, as many report their participation as supporting a drug habit. Johnson said the men cited know that, which led to some to offer drugs in exchange for sex.

"As we continue to address the prostitution problem in our community, our goal is to identify and assist those in need of drug addiction related services, incarcerate those who repeatedly engage in prostitution, and hold accountable the male 'customers' who are exploiting vulnerable and often times drug addicted women," Chief Skip Holbrook said in a news release.

The prostitution sting, which still has 12 active warrants, resulted in six women charged with felony counts for third offenses, four arrested on second offenses and six arrested on first offenses, including a juvenile who, police say, was being pimped. Eric L. Evans, 34, of Cleveland was charged with a felony charge of pimping out a juvenile.

The men cited in the reverse sting include: William G. Ritton, 54, of West Hamlin; Ralph Waldon Bauman II, 38, of Huntington; Brian Steven Peliwo, 44, of Barboursville; Hal Simpkins Jr., 37, of Huntington; Cody Aaron Hanley, 23, of Huntington; Jerry Everett Dunbrack, 48, of Huntington; Sean Scott Harbour, 29, of Huntington; Merrill Eugene Harrison, 75, of Huntington; Travis Lee Hudnall, 28, of Huntington; Claude N. Whitt, 42, of Ashland.; Troy J. Donahoe, 31, of South Point, Ohio; Darrell E. Blake, Jr., 35, of Chesapeake, Ohio; Michael Lee Whitley, 30, of Proctorville, Ohio; Duke Orlando Geary, 29, of Kenova; Chai Weston Moore, 30, of Huntington; Franklin E. Waller, 47, of Fort Gay, W.Va.; Carl David Clay, 50, of Huntington; Michael E. DeMarco, 42, of South Point, Ohio; and James Bradley Dalton, 35, of Huntington.

The prostitution arrests included: Celeste K. Pierce, 34, of Huntington; Allison M. Edwards, 25, of Huntington; Brooke L. Moore, 31, of Huntington; Natasha L. Estep, 29, of Kenova; Courtney L. Webb, 23, of Huntington; Karen E. Bennett, 30, of Huntington; Penny S. Schmelter, 35, of Huntington; Alecia D. Kay, 22, of Huntington; Maria D. Birchfield, 41, of Huntington; Danielle N. Landis, 22, of Huntington; Stacy E. Gilpin, 40, of Huntington; the juvenile; Kelly J. Stickler, 32, of Huntington; Samantha E. Canterbury, 34, of Kenova; Amber N. Billups, 27, of Huntington; and Debra L. Thacker, 33, of Huntington.