NC man who claimed magical powers convicted of sex trafficking, ‘modern-day slavery’

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Ashad Hajela
·2 min read
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A Smithfield man convicted of killing a man in 2006 and accused of killing another in 1999, has been convicted him of sex trafficking.

Jonathan Lynn Jenkins promised people food, shelter and a better life, but he withheld food and their earnings. He beat and choked his victims, sometimes rendering them unconscious, federal prosecutors said Monday in a news release.

He told them his victims he had magical powers and that, if they tried to escape, he would hunt them down and kill them. He sexually assaulted them, forced them into sexual acts and tried to kill a man who helped one victim escape, according to the release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sex trafficking called ‘modern-day slavery’

Jenkins, 48, also known as “Max,” was accused of trafficking girls and women in 2014 and 2015.

A federal jury found him guilty of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion and of a minor; sex trafficking by force fraud and coercion; sex trafficking of a minor; using the internet to promote a prostitution business enterprise; and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Jenkins faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life.

“Human Trafficking – the horrible exploitation of those vulnerable among us – is one of the worst and most intolerable crimes we prosecute. It is simply modern-day slavery and cannot be tolerated,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Norman Acker. “This verdict allows us to take another step in the right direction as we work to eliminate this crime and its terrible consequences for our communities.”

Previous murder conviction

Jenkins was previously convicted of murder in 2006, when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Joseph Richard Vestal in Clayton Estates Mobile Home Park. He spent about eight years in prison and was released in 2014, The News & Observer previously reported.

In 2016, the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office arrested him and another man in connection with running a prostitution ring in Johnston and Wake counties.

While he was in custody, Clayton police interviewed him, then charged him with murder in connection with the death of Elton Demond Whitfield. Whitfield’s body was found in a Wake County field a month after he went missing from Clayton in March 1999, The N&O reported.