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Detective Trapp, Part 1: Women go missing, and police are slow to act

Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

A male lieutenant pulled her aside to say her manner of speaking wasn't appreciated. She hadn't violated any policy. They were just talking about that elusive and subjective thing, "tone." It wasn't the last time.

"Ultimately telling me to 'chick up' a little bit," she would say. "I'm like, 'That's not my style.' I've got to throw in a 'please' 'cause I'm a girl?" One of her favorite TV shows was "The Closer," about a female detective who often bruised colleagues' egos en route to winning spectacular confessions.

"The tone thing" became kind of a joke among her partners, like J.D. Duran, who is the longest-serving homicide detective at the Anaheim PD. Of the 43 partners he's had in his 22 years there, she's one of just three women. He and Trapp have a pact that if unnatural death befalls one of them, the other will take the case, which is pretty close to the highest compliment a murder cop can pay another.

She developed some nicknames, like Hurricane Julie, which referred to the force she became in the thick of a case, and The Cape, because she flapped around like one, trying to hang on to the neck of a suspect twice her size who objected to his arrest.

Duran said Trapp has still another nickname: British Julie, a character who smiles through her teeth while carefully enunciating syllables of biting disapproval in the direction of, say, the beat cop spitting sunflower seeds at her crime scene.

The women who began disappearing from the streets of Santa Ana in fall 2013 did not come to Trapp's attention for months. She would come to know their life stories intimately, and for years their faces would stare at her from the corkboard beside her cubicle. She kept them there, to remind herself that her work wasn't done.

 

They were mothers and daughters, friends and sisters, aunts and wives. By law enforcement logic, they were also in a line of work -- street-level prostitution -- that put them in a certain category: a population prone to drift and disappear and reappear somewhere else.

Kianna Jackson disappeared on Oct. 6. She had just turned 20. She had grown up in Northern California's logging country, left home in her late teens and had been living in Las Vegas with a man her family came to believe was a pimp. She had just taken a Greyhound bus to Santa Ana.

Her mother, Kathy Menzies, reported her missing to the Santa Ana Police Department when she didn't hear from her for a few days. The man who answered the phone looked up Jackson's record and found she'd previously been arrested for prostitution. "Prostitutes work circuits," he said, which meant they cycled from city to city.

Menzies tried to make him understand -- her daughter wouldn't just disappear. She called or texted regularly. Menzies contacted the Orange County morgue and every hospital she could get the number of. She called the Motel 6 where her daughter had been staying. Jackson had left her things in her room and never returned.

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