The three women, all from Colorado, had posted profiles on modeling websites, hoping to launch a career.
But police say a subculture exists involving businesses that front for prostitution or illegal drug rings. The recruit girls from the sites by promising them modeling jobs.
The National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation says the sites could be feeding grounds for sexual predators. “We’re up to 13 or 14 cases that we’re familiar with,” Michelle Bart, the organization’s co-founder, told the Fox News affiliate in Colorado.
Nichols and Furlong were on a site called “Model Mayhem,” while Shelling had posted a profile on a site called “Explore Talent.”
Police haven’t ruled out anything yet, but the sites appear to have nothing to do with the disappearances. Rather, it appears that a person or persons may be using the sites to find young, vulnerable women.
Nichols left her Colorado Springs home on Oct. 9, telling friends she’d landed a modeling job in Denver. She has’t been seen since. Furlong has been missing since Feb. 5. For the moment, Police consider her a runaway. Schelling was last seen on Feb 4. Her car was found in Pueblo, Colo.
Investigators thought they had a break in the Nichols case, when Nichols’ photo popped up on a Las Vegas site advertising escorts. But police now say the photo was taken from a different site and posted by a woman who is not suspected in Nichols’ disappearance.
Furlong’s mother, Lin Furlong, said she received a strange phone call from her daughter last month. “She said she had to go because it’s not her phone and they needed their phone back,” Furlong said.
Jillian Mourning, 25, a professional model, said she was forced into prostitution at 19, when she met up with a man who identified himself as a Model Mayhem manager. He turned out to be a sexual predator.
“He came into my room with three guys, and they [all] proceeded to rape me,” she recounted. “They took pictures of it, and would even show me pictures of things that I was doing, and videotaped the whole thing.”
The men forced her to work as a prostitute for six months until her manager was finally arrested and sent to prison for an unrelated crime,” she said.