By Lynn Oldshue
Two years ago, wearing a seafoam green dress, Bre Vigor stood on a stage in front of a sign that said “Distinguished Young Women, Mobile County.”
The interview question was: “What is the movie that best describes your life?”
The contestants were given their question the day before and had 24 hours to prepare their answers. That night, Bre sat at the kitchen table with her mother, Cricket Vigor, and said it was time to tell her story.
“I knew I couldn’t say anything else,” she said.
Bre stepped up to the microphone the next day and said, “Most would consider my life to be perfect. But in reality, my life could be compared to a horror film. I am a survivor of an online child predator.”
It was the first time she had said those words away from her family or law enforcement. Her mother sat in the audience and held her breath.
In her movie, she said, “I would expose the dangers of social media and shed light on what our generation is faced with daily,” she said. “You would also see a family fighting for justice while maintaining a sense of normalcy. At the end of the day, I have learned no situation is too big for a family to handle as long as they have each other.”
Later that night, wearing a red dress for the talent competition, Bre danced to the song “This Is Me” by Keala Settle from “The Greatest Showman.”
“I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.”
Bre was named second runner-up.
Her horror film opens when she was 12 years old, despite coming from a loving home, being involved in church and going to a good school.
“I was the girl next door,” she said.
Elected class representative of her sixth-grade class, Bre was responsible for keeping her classmates informed and on track. It was also her first time to use social media, including Instagram and Snapchat.
Paying little attention to the names on friend requests, she went down the line, hitting the “accept” buttons.
She received a message from a basic profile that simply said, “How was your day?”
Thinking it was a student from her school, she replied, “Good. How are you doing?” The conversation went on for two weeks until “all of a sudden, this person wanted more from me.”
He asked for a nude picture, and Bre realized it wasn’t someone from her school.
“I posted his username into Google,” she said. “The reply in the search engine was ‘the minute you report me, my people will find you and they will kill your family.’”
She was 12 years old and didn’t know what to do. So she sent the picture and kept quiet.
“He used that picture against me and asked for more,” she said.
After sending the first picture, Bre said, she was “putty in his hands.” He hacked into her accounts, threatening to post the pictures or kill her family if she didn’t obey him.
He lived on the West Coast, two time zones behind Mobile.
They had a routine. He messaged about midnight or 1 a.m. She started shaking each minute closer to the time to talk with him.
“I knew what was coming, but I didn’t have a choice,” she said. “I would have to go on Skype. It was like a webcam, and I could see myself on the screen. I could hear him but couldn’t see him.”
Most nights, she was up with him until 3 a.m., then woke up three hours later to get ready for school. She was exhausted and her grades started dropping.
“Looking back, we realized the steps of his grooming process, and sleep deprivation was part of that,” Cricket said. “Bre freaked out when there was a change of schedule because he became angry with her. We believe he had an audience scheduled to watch her.”
At the time, Bre thought it was love and she was in a relationship with him.
“I couldn’t think of it any other way,” she said. “During middle school, I was busy with volleyball, dance and cross country. I didn’t stop. That made me unavailable at times that he couldn’t reach me.”
Running was a way to relieve stress and something she could control. On the outside, she looked successful and involved, but inside she was running away and hiding.
“I didn’t spend much time with my family because I was always busy doing something else,” she said. “It would have been hard for them to pick up on the red flags.”
In 2014, Bre competed in a national dance competition in Las Vegas. A mother warned the girls in the changing room a man was pacing outside the door. Security escorted him away. Later that night, Bre received a text that said, “I want you to know that I was really close to you today.”
“He had every intention of getting his hands on me and trafficking me in person,” Bre said. “That was his chance.”
Just a few nights later, Cricket couldn’t sleep.
She prayed, “Lord, just ease my mind,” and just before midnight, she got up to check on her kids.
Bre’s light was on, so Cricket walked in. Makeup fully done, Bre quickly flipped over her phone and put it down.
“We do random phone checks in our house, and if I put my hand out, you have to put your phone in it, no questions asked,” Cricket said. “As Bre did that, she went to the other end of her bed and said, ‘I’ll take my punishment now.’”
Bre felt sick to her stomach as she handed the phone to her mother.
“I had been hiding this secret for three years,” Bre said. “I didn’t know how my mother would react. It was also the moment I realized I may not have to go through this anymore.”
As Cricket searched the phone, she found a screen name listed as “Daddy.” Bre’s father, a fire captain, was at work at the fire station that night, but Cricket knew he didn’t have that app.
That was Cricket’s first clue, but she didn’t realize the full significance of that name until several months later when she read a magazine story that said human traffickers label girls with a tattoo of “Daddy.”
For the rest of the night, Cricket watched vague messages appear on Bre’s phone, attempting to see if Bre was available.
As Cricket kept digging and asking questions, she learned what her daughter felt like she had to do for her trafficker and the threats he made.
“It broke my heart that Bre was too afraid to tell anyone,” Cricket said. “But if you hand me a problem, I’m going to fix it.”
Cricket deleted all accounts on Bre’s phone to shut off contact with the trafficker, then uploaded them onto her phone to monitor his activity.
She researched the trafficker and made a file on him, but the family had to decide how to proceed with law enforcement.
“By turning in this information, I was risking my child for the things she did,” Cricket said. “I had the harsh conversation with Bre that for me to protect her, she may be arrested in the process. I would fight as hard as I could to get her out of this, but we had to stop him or he was never going to stop coming after her.”
An attorney advised the family to make sure that law enforcement acknowledged Bre was a victim.
Their first stop was with a sheriff’s deputy who wrote the case up as “harassing communications,” but, he said, “I will tell you right now that this isn’t going anywhere.”
The deputy was right. The case didn’t go anywhere.
So the family spoke to a detective at the Child Advocacy Center who knew what to do and put them in contact with the FBI.
But the trafficker continued to track the location of Bre’s Snapchat on the phone Cricket now had in her possession.
After they entered the FBI office, the trafficker “tried to put everything on lockdown where they could not have access to him.”
“I didn’t realize he could track us through the Snapchat app on my phone,” Cricket said. “But as we left the therapist’s office after our first visit, he was reaching out a few minutes after we left.”
He also hacked into the therapist’s files to delete all communications regarding Bre.
“The therapist called me to say every one of her files was there and intact,” Cricket said. “But everything on Bre was gone, and that was very concerning.”
The FBI told the family, “We have eyes on him. No parent ever wants to hear this, but you need to be very concerned. He’s very dangerous.”
Bre turned to cutting and thoughts of suicide.
“Cutting herself was something Bre could control,” Cricket said. “She hid the marks with bangle bracelets and sweaters. She didn’t see a way out of her situation, and the thoughts of ending her life were real.”
Bre said she knew what to do if she was at a party and “a red Solo cup was handed to me” or if someone offered her drugs because “those were the things taught during Red Ribbon Week at school.”
“No one ever taught me how to be safe online,” she said. ”Or if someone reaches out to you who is not who they say that they are. There was no talk about what to do if someone asks for a nude photo of you.”
Because of action by Bre’s parents and the FBI, attempts at contact from the trafficker eventually ended. He left the country in 2019, the day after he received a visit from the FBI, but he was never charged with a crime.
“Bre lived under my roof for three years under the control of someone else before I found out,” Cricket said. “I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. Were there signs I didn’t see? He had her very scheduled to make sure he was communicating in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else was sound asleep.”
Cricket learned it’s common for predators to target children from the ages of 11 to 13 because they’re easily manipulated.
“He targeted a young girl like Bre because he knew she wouldn’t fully understand what was happening, and he could use fear against her,” Cricket said. “He also used her relationship with her older sister as a threat. My children love each other more than anything on earth and how he used that against her was heartbreaking.”
In sex trafficking, pimps are labeled as “Romeo” or “gorilla.” A Romeo is a sex trafficker who gets young girls to fall in love with him. He earns her trust, then uses his influence to exploit them. The gorilla uses threats, intimidation and kidnapping to force victims into sex trafficking. Cricket said Bre’s trafficker was both.
“He established a relationship with Bre to keep her on the hook,” Cricket said. “But if she didn’t supply what he wanted immediately, he turned on her with threats. He intended to kidnap her. I think in that young mind of hers, there was a level of attention that she was getting, but on the flip side, she was also getting that very abusive side and the threats of what would happen if she didn’t comply.”
Parents think they know who their kids’ friends are because they can see them, but they need to know the online friends as well, Cricket said.
“Children are more inclined to share their innermost thoughts with online friends they never see rather than share with those in person,” Cricket said. “We learned the hard way about predators posing as children. There is also no curfew for social media. Someone is there 24/7.”
But as contact with one trafficker ended, another one tried to begin. The second time, it was Garnett James Lloyd, a 48-year-old man from North Carolina, posing as a teenage girl interested in buying the formal dresses Bre and her friends were selling online. The messages again turned strange, but this time the Vigors immediately turned the messages over to the FBI.
The FBI agent Bre was already working with assumed Bre’s identity and kept communicating with Lloyd, who asked for specific poses in the dresses, then asked for voyeur-type photos, offering up to $700 for them.
After the agent posing as Bre refused to send additional photos, Lloyd said he would contact her friends and family and “destroy her good-girl status,” according to the press release about the case from the Department of Justice, Southern District of Alabama.
Lloyd later claimed he edited other pictures to make Bre appear topless and threatened to send those pictures to her friends and family. He also demanded she respond only with “Yes, Master” or “No, Master.”
Lloyd, a convicted sex offender, was arrested at his home by the FBI several days later. He was sentenced to five years in federal prison for cyberstalking.
Cricket called those years a nightmare that will be with her forever.
“But I watched my child rise from a broken place and build herself into a better version of herself,” she said.
Bre became an Azalea Trail Maid and vice president of the National Honor Society at Mary G. Montgomery High School. She was also voted Most Popular her senior year. She received millions of dollars in track scholarship offers from schools across the country and now runs for the University of Mobile.
After the Distinguished Young Women competition, the judges asked Bre to participate in the Miss Mobile Bay pageant. She first said no, then changed her mind.
“I was a runner, not a pageant girl, but I was injured during my cross country season and open that weekend,” she said. “I went out on a limb and thought it could be a learning opportunity. I didn’t expect anything from it, but I went in true to myself.”
Crowned Miss Mobile Bay on Oct. 5, 2019, Bre has worn the crown for more than a year. Pageants were canceled due to COVID, including Miss Alabama 2020, giving Bre another year to prepare for the state title.
“I was barely 18 last year and knew my chances for winning were slim to none,” she said. “I am thankful for another year to grow and prepare and to focus on more of my goals.”
One of those goals is starting a nonprofit, Stopping Traffick, to raise money for groups such as the Rose Center in Mobile, which works with girls who have been trafficked or who are at risk. Bre also wants to raise enough money for scholarships for girls who are abused or trafficked.
“If girls get out of the situation, they don’t know what their skills are, and it is hard to get on their feet,” she said. “I want to provide a way to help them get an education. I am also going to major in criminal justice with a minor in business to fight for them.”
Bre knows she’s one of the lucky ones who are saved from sex trafficking and go on to a better life.
“I had strong support from my parents and community,” she said. “I want to be that for other girls.”
Her crown has opened doors and allowed her to share her story in ways she could have never done on her own, she said.
“Mobile is the number two hotspot for sex trafficking in Alabama,” she said. “If I win Miss Alabama, I will stay for a year in Birmingham, the hub of sex trafficking in the state, preparing for Miss America.
“Wherever I am, if I save just one girl, then what I went through was worth it,” she said.
If you are someone you know is being trafficked, or you need more information, contact the Rose Center in Mobile 251-298-3671, the Child Advocacy Center 251-432-1011 or the Human Trafficking Hotline 888-373-7888.
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