ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A seventh suspect is now in custody, accused in a disturbing human trafficking case involving a teenage boy who detectives say was used as a sex slave.
Curtis Gruwell turned himself in to authorities this morning, according to St. Petersburg police. Gruwell faces charges of conspiracy to commit human trafficking and interference with custody.
Five other men and one woman were previously arrested following an 8-month long human trafficking investigation involving the trafficking of the 15-year-old teenaged victim from Marion County.
“The men introduced this juvenile to sadomasochism and used him as a sex slave,” said Major Mark Hensley with the St. Petersburg Police Department.
Investigators say in April 2017, a 15-year-old boy from Marion County expressed unhappiness at home to an acquaintance, Eleanor McGlamory. McGlamory introduced the boy to two friends, Mark Dennis and Andrew Dennis, who were living in Pinellas County.
Several weeks later, investigators say Mark and Andrew Dennis picked the boy up and traveled to Pinellas County. Unaware of the situation, the boy’s mother found a note from her son saying he was gone and to not try to find him. The mother immediately reported her son missing to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
The suspects allegedly moved the boy into a filthy trailer to live with four men; Mark Dennis, Andrew Dennis, Curtis Gruwell and Michael Schwartz. “The victim was living on a small mattress with no bedding, surrounded by animals, animal cages and animal feces,” said Major Hensley.
During the 11 months living with the suspects, detectives say the victim did not attend school and had no medical care. Rather, the minor received inhumane treatment by Mark Dennis and his underlings, Andrew Dennis, Gruwell, Schwartz; along with associates Michael Blasdel and JR Gauthier.
“The teenage victim in this case was lured away from his family with promises of a better life. Instead he was moved into a filthy trailer and used as a sex slave for nearly a year,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.
St. Petersburg police identified the victim’s location on May 8, 2018 while investigating the disappearance of another victim from Louisiana.
Mark Dennis, Andrew Dennis, Gruwell and the victim were present at the scene. Detectives say Mark Dennis claimed to be the child’s biological father, but when asked for proof, did not provide such documentation.
The Division of Children and Families removed the boy from the suspects’ custody. The victim is receiving specialized trauma-informed care designed for victims of human trafficking at a Florida safe house.
Charged with conspiracy to commit human trafficking are Mark Dennis, his husband, Andrew Dennis, Michael Schwartz, Michael Blasdel, JR Gauthier and Eleanor McGlamory.
Police are concerned there could be more victims.