Local News

Email led police to victim in Zebulon trafficking case

Posted June 10, 2014
Updated June 11, 2014

— Zebulon's police chief said Tuesday that an email from a woman asking her estranged husband in Germany for money helped investigators rescue her from a local warehouse where she was allegedly being held captive for sexual servitude.

Chief Timothy Hayworth told reporters at a news conference that the 34-year-old Russian-born German citizen had been stripped of her money, credit cards and phone since June 4 and that her alleged captor, Robert Edward Whiteside, 45, kept her at arm's length at all times to keep her from escaping.

The woman, however, was able to send an email to her estranged husband and hinted that she couldn't leave.

"The person realized she was being held against her will and contacted us," Hayworth said.

About an hour after receiving the tip Monday morning, Zebulon police detectives met Whiteside at the warehouse, at 511 Mack-Todd Road, where he had been living in a cluttered outbuilding.

The woman, who was with him when Whiteside arrived, then told police that she was strangled and sexually assaulted and was being held against her will.

"Obviously, he didn't believe she was going to say what she did," Hayworth said.

Whiteside was arrested and jailed initially under a $250,000 secured bond on one count of sexual servitude of an adult victim and two counts of assault by strangulation – charges that carry a maximum of 11 years in prison.

During Whiteside's first court appearance Tuesday afternoon, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger said more charges were possible.

Whiteside asked for his bond to be reduced so that he could work to pay his bills and find an attorney.

"I'm not a troublemaker-type person," he said during the brief appearance. "This has really become a misunderstanding. I don't have a record of this type of thing."

He interrupted Zellinger who asked that the bond remain the same.

"I've never been in a situation like this before," Whiteside said.

District Judge Vince Rozier lowered the bond to $90,000 and ordered Whiteside be electronically monitored if he posts bond.

The woman, meanwhile, is being held at a safe house and appears to be in good health, Hayworth said.

Investigators spent several hours Monday searching the warehouse, where Whiteside operated a refurbishing business. They found several firearms, ammunition, pornography, computers, digital storage devices, travel documents and what Hayworth described as a secret bedroom behind a closet wall.

The room, he said, did not appear to be designed to keep someone locked inside but could be secured from within to keep someone from getting inside.

Hayworth also said that Whiteside and the woman apparently met on a dating website where he had been advertising for a girlfriend or wife who was from Germany or Russia.

Authorities' initial investigation revealed that he has dated women from other countries and has also traveled to Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Colombia and Peru. But Hayworth said there's currently no evidence to suggest he's committed similar crimes.

A statement he allegedly made to the woman that he had killed women in the past, Hayworth said, likely was a scare tactic. Still, he said, investigators are exploring all possible angles to be sure.

Anyone with information that could help investigators can call Zebulon Crime Stoppers at 919-366-3698 or the Zebulon Police Department at 919-823-1818.


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  • Edward Anderson Jun 11, 2014
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    What happened to "Innocent until *proven* guilty?" Let the police do their jobs before you convict either party.

  • wral_viewer Jun 11, 2014

    It's certainly a sensational story, but if she had physical evidence of abuse (the N&O said there was) and they were able to confirm he had her resources (money, cc, phone), then it doesn't really matter what her motives were. You aren't allowed to steal things from people and lay hands on them even if they've used poor/questionable judgement.

  • Todd Singleton Jun 11, 2014
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    Ya man. The world's black and white, no grey. Step out of your cocoon. Not everything is what it appears on the surface. There is a lot about this that doesn't add up. Hope you're never on a jury because your deductive reasoning and critical thinking skills are non-existent. By the way... swamp land is a great deal so go grab some. I said it, it's now in writing so it must be true!

  • James Kirby Jun 11, 2014
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    I agree. Sounds really off to me.

  • COPs eye Jun 11, 2014

    A lot of unanswered questions still. Im sure the Zebulon Police have not told all their gathered details yet, its to early.

  • dollibug Jun 11, 2014

    Just wanted to comment that I bet this man also *forced this woman to come to the USA* too. Again I think there is indeed a lot more to this.

  • Heather Brittingham Jun 11, 2014
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    I can't get over how many people have read this article and then posted about how they don't believe basically anything in the article. This is how criminals are so able to commit crimes, get off with a slap on the wrist and then escalate their crimes. This guy could have turned into another Ariel Castro if he had gotten away with this one.

  • rachel Jun 11, 2014

    this story is a set up-great way to get into the country-answer a dating ad from an American guy looking for a foreign born girlfriend-once in the country, claim abuse or enslavement and the authorities go out of their way to make sure you are safe-when will American guys realize they are a passport to freedom for some women in other countries? I notice the article didn't say she was requesting safe passage home-and her accomplice overseas-who just happened to alert authorities? Yeah, right-just a concerned ex husband- I buy that-NOT

  • Grand Union Jun 11, 2014

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    She likely persuaded him that she could get some money for him and naturally the message would have been in German, so could say something a little different than what he thought it did or if in english, that would have been an immediate alarm bell if sent to another German............

    Only 90K bond?

  • miseem Jun 11, 2014

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    Yeah. It's a plot by the Zebulon police and the Russians to frame an innocent man just looking for a wife.

    I liked an earlier comment on how could she send an email if she didn't have a phone. Ever think about that desk top? And the stars around woman? They are faking that too. Access to the computer? Ever heard of password protection? Maybe he forgot to log off that one time and she could get to an email that day. As to why she did not send something to police here, would you be familiar with email addresses in Germany? And the emails of local police in Germany? Luckily, she could get to a person in Germany. Also, note that firearms were found in the search. Think he may have threatened her with those, warning her not to leave? That may be as effective as a lock. Particularly if you are in a foreign country. I'm afraid you will be disappointed about the truth in this case. It's already out there. Just read the article.