Truman Road curves past a desolate corridor of gas stations, liquor stores and adult bookstores on the way east to Independence. The stretch is called Blue Summit, an unincorporated part of Jackson County known mostly for Erotic City, the adult-entertainment complex that includes a novelty shop, video booths and a strip club. In the early evening hours of January 17, a year-old boy walked the stretch of wasteland. But he found a way out of the degree night when a man in a silver Mercedes offered him a ride.
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The booth was big enough for 15 people. After the strangers finished with the girl, her stepfather took his turn. The girl would later estimate that over the course of two years, she had sex with her stepfather 80 to 90 times in hotel rooms, parks, houses and cars, and at Erotic City. The girl, now 18, waits alone in the back of a sterile courtroom for the sentencing of her stepfather and alleged abuser, Jesse Franklin Herd III. Federal prosecutors accuse Herd of taking the girl across state lines with the intent of prostituting her and engaging in other sex acts. Herd could have faced a maximum life sentence, but he has admitted the allegations and signed a plea agreement guaranteeing him 18 years in federal prison. Her curly hair is pulled back.