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October 25, 2014

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Prosecutors: More evidence in Utah sex slaves case

SALT LAKE CITY — Prosecutors on Monday asked for more time in their case against a Utah truck driver accused of keeping a pair of sex slaves in his semitrailer for months as he traveled the country.

They say they have found more evidence against Timothy Jay Vafeades, 54, who appeared Monday in Fourth District Court. The graying defendant sat slumped in shackles and jail stripes.

Authorities allege that Vafeades beat a 19-year-old female relative and an 18-year-old he picked up until they nearly passed out, forced the women to have sex with him repeatedly and altered their appearances. He was arrested in Minnesota last year when officers noticed bruises on one of the women.

His defense attorney, Vanessa Ramos, on Monday declined to comment to The Associated Press.

Vafeades is pleading not guilty to charges of kidnapping, transporting for illegal sex and possessing child pornography. It could mean a life sentence if he is convicted, but a trial has not yet been scheduled.

Judge Evelyn Furse on Monday set another pretrial proceeding for June 20. Such a scheduling could mean more charges are forthcoming, Fourth District Court spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch said.

Arrest documents filed in March claim Vafeades kidnapped the 19-year-old female relative who had come from Florida in May 2013 to work with him on his truck, the "Twilight Express."

A week after she came to Utah, the teen told Vafeades she wanted to go home. She later told authorities that he strangled her until she blacked out and threatened to harm her in order to keep her with him for the next six months while they traveled to Washington state, Nevada, Texas and Tennessee, among other states.

Vafeades forced the teenager to have sex with him more than 100 times, according to a criminal complaint.

He chipped down the girl's teeth, made her wear a fake set and wore his own false set with vampire fangs, the teen told investigators.

In November 2013, police officers at Clay County, Minnesota, weigh station arrested Vafeades after noticing the teenager's bruises and turning up a 1999 restraining order barring Vafeades from contacting her.

After his arrest, a second woman told authorities Vafeades had held her captive in his truck, the warrant states.

The woman told detectives she met the driver at a Salt Lake City truck stop in April 2012. She agreed to have dinner with him, the report says, but Vafeades told her about 10 minutes into the ride that she was going with him for a week or longer.

The woman said Vafeades kept her with him for about three months through threats and violence, forcing her to have sex with him almost daily and calling her his slave, authorities said.

She said he had her hair cut and colored to disguise her identity and forced her to marry him.

The trucker faces state charges in Minnesota in addition to federal counts.

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