ASHTABULA CO., Ohio (WYTV) – An Ashtabula County grand jury has issued a new indictment against James Brooks, who investigators linked to the death of a Warren teenager, Alesha Bell.
Bell’s remains were found in a fire pit and other location at Brooks’ Roaming Shores Village home on August 2015. He was initially charged with tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.
Further investigation by the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office into the death of Bell led to additional charges nine months later, according to a news release from Ashtabula County prosecutors.
Brooks now faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter, and one count each of trafficking in persons, kidnapping, abduction, tampering with evidence, compelling prostitution, gross abuse of a corpse, aggravated possession of drugs and possession of cocaine, heroin and criminal tools.
Those are in addition to several weapons and drug trafficking charges filed against Brooks by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“The involuntary manslaughter is based on him attempting or actually committing a felony and as a result of attempting or committing felony, he caused the death of Alesha Bell,” said Ashtabula County Prosecuting Attorney Nicholas Iarocci. “The evidence that we have, we’ve been able to develop, can support the involuntary manslaughter charges.”
Investigators now say Bell was a victim of human trafficking, and she wasn’t alone.
“He was using Alesha as part of a prostitution ring,” Iarocci said. “The [victims] we know of, I think probably are about seven, eight…but there could be more. We have information on less than ten.”
He says most, if not all of the women, were from Trumbull County and that his office has evidence that Brooks had been trafficking women since May of 2014. Iarocci thinks it was happening much longer than that, though.
He also says drugs like cocaine and heroin played an intricate role in the operation.
Iarocci will not discuss how or why Bell died, but he did confirm what her mother said after she disappeared.
“There did come a point when Alesha was afraid for her life and we have evidence to support that, and it was a short time thereafter that her remains were found at the Roaming Shores residence.”
As a result of the charges, Brooks had to forfeit a laptop, $1,016 in cash, a Kawasaki 700 four-wheeler, Dodge Charger, Cadillac Escalade and a Suzuki 600 motorcycle to law enforcement.
Brooks remains in the Ashtabula County Jail Wednesday night, awaiting arraignment on the new charges.