$150K BAIL | Minnesota man arrested in Chicago met his teen spouse in church, mother-in-law says
They met at church. She was a typical teenager, often rebellious and indifferent to her parents’ religious devotion
Danner, 32, of Rockford, Minn., is accused of forcing his wife to have sex with strangers at locations across the country, including a downtown Chicago Hotel.
But the aspiring beautician still often went with her family to church. It was during those visits, roughly five years ago, that she first laid eyes on Clinton Danner.
He had a checkered past, but was working with the church’s counselor and had seemed to have redeemed himself.
She was 17. Danner was 27.
She got pregnant, and they married.
“She never had a steady boyfriend. Clinton was it. He just charmed her. He made her feel special,” the woman’s mother said.
Now the suburban Minneapolis parents are grappling with a nightmare.
Their oldest child confessed to them about a year ago that her husband was pimping her for sex.
Their son-in-law has been charged in Chicago with prostituting the young woman across the country.
“We’re coping. We have to,” the mother said.
The Sun-Times is not naming the young woman because investigators consider her a victim.
The woman and her 3-year-old daughter are together in a safe location, Cook County sheriff’s officials said. She last phoned her parents Sunday to tell them that she and the child were safe but that her husband was in jail.
They haven’t heard from her since.
“I didn’t know she was back with him until September,” her mother said. “We learned . . . you give her her space, so that’s what we did. She would sometimes call and text [in the last few months], but it was more for the sake of letting her child say ‘hi’ to grandma and grandpa.”
The parents said they had heard about Danner’s past before.
When their daughter met Danner, he already had a string of felony convictions in Minnesota, including two for burglary and one for lottery fraud in 1996, and another for drugs in 2002, prosecutors said.
Still, the woman’s parents said Danner seemed to have turned his life around, with his church activities and the good advice he gave their high school dropout daughter.
“Respect your parents,” he told her.
When the young woman became pregnant a few months later, the family began planning a wedding at the same Christian church where the two had met.
Danner allegedly had plans of his own.
Authorities said even before the birth of their daughter, Danner started pimping his wife to strangers on craigslist.
Within the last six months, Danner’s alleged scheme spread across state lines. He often would shuttle his family in a van while his wife sold her body, prosecutors said.
The couple and their daughter moved into a Minneapolis duplex about a year ago. Neighbors said they were told the couple’s line of work often took them out of town.
“He was putting up ads on wherever for her to dance,” one neighbor told WCCO, a Minneapolis-St. Paul TV station.
“They looked happy. They seemed happy,” another neighbor said.
But Danner was actually threatening his young wife, telling her that he would take their child away from her or harm the child if the woman didn’t prostitute herself on his behalf, the woman told police.
Now 32, Danner was arrested when he came to a downtown Chicago Holiday Inn where he had flown his wife over the weekend.
On Wednesday, a blond Danner stood in court with plaid shorts, sneakers and a fleece jacket. He was ordered held in lieu of $150,000 bail.
“Big dog” was the nickname Danner listed on his MySpace page, where a photo shows him posing in sunglasses behind the wheel of his car.
Danner’s parents told WCCO-TV they were shocked by the charges. They said it was simply not true that their son was holding his wife against her will for four years.
In an e-mail to the Associated Press, craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said of the arrest: “Criminal exploitation is reprehensible, and craigslist works with law enforcement when called upon to apprehend and prosecute those responsible.”
While the woman’s parents said they were “shocked” over their son-in-law’s arrest this week, the allegations weren’t new.
A year ago, the woman, whom a cousin described as “sweet and beautiful,” first told her parents that she was prostituting herself under Danner’s command.
Danner, who claimed he had been making a living as a limo driver, blamed his wife, the woman’s father said.
“It was a, ‘he-said-she-said’ thing. I said, ‘Who cares who started it. Let’s not do it anymore,’ ” the woman’s father said.
The woman moved back home but eventually went back to Danner.
She wanted “out” before, but in Chicago, she ended her arduous journey by calling a sex-trafficking hotline just a few days shy of her fourth wedding anniversary.
“We went into shock since last year. I’m not sure we had fully recovered,” the woman’s father said.
But they have the same message for their daughter that they had a year ago:
“If I could, I would tell her that I love her and ask her if she wants to come back home. She knows she’s always welcome here,” her mother said Thursday. “We’re just waiting for her to call.”