Mercer 'hero' honored for saving fleeing teen girl
HURLEY - A Mercer, Wis., man was honored Wednesday for his role in saving a 14-year-old girl from prostitution.
Pat Brandt was presented with a plaque from the Iron County Sheriff's Department for his heroism.
Iron County Judge Patrick Madden said while he couldn't comment on specific aspects of the case in the event of an appeal, Brandt was "a hero to a 14-year-old girl."
Nikia Burchette, 28, of Milwaukee, was previously convicted in a jury trial and was sentenced in Iron County Court to six years in prison and six years of extended supervision for trafficking a child for commercial sex acts and child abuse.
Iron County Sheriff Tony Furyk said Wednesday Brandt was "in the right place at the right time" the morning when he was opening his business and assisted the young girl, who was fleeing from a Mercer motel after being assaulted.
The girl, about 5 feet tall, accompanied Burchette, Tanya Brown, 18, and Tamyra Thomas, 23, all of Milwaukee, to Mercer on Sept. 26-27.
An elderly Mercer resident had paid $1,500 for the girl to come to his home and stay overnight. The girl testified she offered sex to the man, who responded to an Internet escort service ad, but no sexual contact occurred.
Iron County District Attorney Marty Lipske said at her trial that Burchette was the "top dog" among the four females who made the trip to Mercer, controlling the money and buying food and condoms for the juvenile.
The girl, a runaway from West Allis, said she had earned $3,000 during that week performing sex acts in lower Wisconsin, mostly in Madison, and for the overnight stay in Mercer.
The girl escaped from Burchette at the Loons Nest after she was beaten by Burchette, according to court testimony.
The juvenile went running down U.S. 51 in Mercer and that's when Brandt stepped in. He testified he could see a black woman quite a distance away running after the girl.
Brandt said Wednesday the girl was hysterical. He testified she looked only 12 or 13 and she told him she was involved in prostitution.
He called 911, reaching the sheriff's department, and after she cried for about a half an hour in his vehicle, the girl calmed down and was able to provide names of the three women who were charged with child sex trafficking.
Brandt on Wednesday credited sheriff's department dispatcher Donna Saarnio and everyone else involved at the county level. "It was pretty impressive," he said. "It was good to not see the bad guys get away."
Brandt credited his dog with having a calming influence on the girl as she sat in his vehicle, waiting for the arrival of sheriff's department deputies.
Brandt said he hopes the girl he describes as very intelligent will one day return to Iron County as a successful member of society.
Brown charges dismissed
In a related development Wednesday, child sex trafficking and related charges against Brown were dismissed without prejudice.
The victim said she would not testify against Brown, but said she would cooperate in related future court proceedings, according to Lipske.
Madden noted the girl had refused to testify in writing.
The victim apparently suggested that Brown was just along for the ride.
Lipske said that dropping the charges without prejudice means they could be reissued if Brown fails to cooperate with authorities.