Smithfield convicted murderer given 3 life sentences for sex trafficking crimes

Johnston County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A Smithfield man previously convicted of murder and multiple different sex trafficking charges was sentenced for the sex trafficking crimes on Wednesday morning, according to a release from the United States Attorney’s Office Eastern District of North Carolina.

Jonathan Lynn Jenkins, 48, who Clayton police charged in 2016 with the murder of Elton Demond Whitfield, was convicted on March 1 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 (ITAR); and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

On Wednesday, Judge James Dever sentenced Jenkins to three consecutive life sentences for the crimes.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Jenkins and his co-conspirator prostituted many women between November 2014 and October 2015, including minors.

The victims were young, vulnerable, and often struggling to survive, prosecutors said. After luring the victims with promises of food, shelter, and a better life, Jenkins and his co-conspirator manipulated and controlled the victims’ lives, isolating them, withholding food, and keeping all money the victims earned.

Documents say Jenkins beat and choked the victims, sometimes to unconsciousness. He emotionally and psychologically abused them.

Among other threats, he claimed to have magical powers that allowed him to hunt down victims and kill them.

He sexually assaulted victims and forced them into sexual acts against their will, according to prosecutors. He also attempted to murder a man who helped one victim escape.

Jenkins was convicted of second-degree murder in North Carolina state court in 2006 after he pleaded guilty to murdering Joseph Richard Vestal in the Clayton Estates Mobile Home Park and served nearly eight years in prison.

Before imposing Wednesday’s sentence, Dever described Jenkins as “an extraordinarily dangerous human being” and his crimes as a “form of modern-day slavery.”

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