Girl, 14, charged in killing of L.A. anti-sex-trafficking activist's daughter

For the record:
5:20 p.m. May 8, 2024: A previous version of this story said that McIntyre graduated at 16. She was on track to graduate but did not finish.

Los Angeles police have arrested a 14-year-old girl in the March 21 killing of a woman who was shot on a street corner in South L.A.

The teenager is accused of shooting Kendra McIntyre, 20, just before 4:30 a.m. while she was standing at the intersection of 70th and Figueroa streets, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a news release Tuesday.

The suspect was identified by LAPD homicide detectives Monday and taken into custody at a police station less than a mile from where the shooting took place. The Los Angeles district attorney's office charged the teen with McIntyre's murder, but there was no information about a motive or whether the girl acted alone.

She was arraigned Wednesday morning and ordered to remain in custody by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, according to a spokesperson for the district attorney's office. She is scheduled to return to court later this month.

Homicide investigators did not provide any information about why McIntyre was standing on that particular street corner two hours before dawn.

McIntyre's mother, Debra Rush, believes that her daughter was being forced by South L.A. gang members to sell sex when she was shot. Homicide investigators have not provided any information about what McIntyre was doing in a part of South L.A. known as a sex-trafficking corridor.

Years before, Rush found herself in the same part of South L.A.

Read more: Mother seeks answers after daughter, 20, is killed in L.A. sex work hub 'the blade'

In the mid-2000s, Rush was kidnapped from her home in Fresno and forced to engage in sex work to pay back a drug debt her mother owed, she told The Times. One of the places her captors put her to work was on Figueroa Street. She eventually ran away and found her way back to Fresno.

Rush is the founder of the nonprofit Breaking the Chains, an organization that seeks to connect victims of sex trafficking with resources that can help them find housing and other services to escape their traffickers. Rush founded the organization in the San Joaquin Valley, where McIntyre was raised, Rush wrote in Facebook posts honoring her daughter.

"Kendra was an all-around amazing human being; fiercely loyal, beautifully artistic, hilarious, outgoing, and loving," Rush wrote in one post.

In a message posted Wednesday on the Breaking the Chains Facebook page, Rush thanked the LAPD for "tirelessly working to bring closure" to her family, but she added there was still sorrow in her world and "no justice can fill the void" of losing her daughter. She wrote that her daughter had experienced trauma as a child and suffered from “severe mental health issue(s).”

Growing up, McIntyre's life revolved around painting, cheerleading and the English dramas and movies she used to binge in her free time. For a time in her teens she went through a phase in which she spoke only in a British accent, her mother recalled. She was on track to graduate from high school at 16, but was sidetracked after she was traumatized by a violent home invasion robbery at her home. She instead went to work at a hospital as an environmental services aide.

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Photos of McIntyre often showed her flashing a broad smile. But Rush said the happy exterior hid a deep well of pain and struggles with mental health.

The lives of both mother and daughter were marked by recurring abuse and violence. Rush suspects some of her daughter’s issues were rooted in sexual abuse inflicted by a caretaker. She also recalled an incident at the height of the pandemic in 2020 in which she said McIntyre was the victim of a violent home invasion. Two suspects broke in while she was home alone and assaulted her.

“She was alone with them for 45 minutes, and I don’t want to go into details,” Rush said.

The suspects were charged and McIntyre testified about the experience in a court hearing, an agonizing experience that her mother said sent her on a downward spiral. Her daughter had also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which Rush said compounded her situation.

“That’s where we kind of lost Kendra,” her mother said.

Her daughter began having violent outbursts and grew withdrawn, Rush said. No longer feeling safe in their home, McIntyre left town earlier this year and ended up in L.A., Rush said.

While investigators in Los Angeles have released little information about her daughter's murder, Rush said investigators in Stanislaus County identified McIntyre as a trafficking victim in that part of the state.

Read more: San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department admits it killed teen hostage. Why did it take so long?

Through her own experiences, Rush became an advocate in the anti-trafficking community and garnered the attention of lawmakers in Sacramento and Washington. Even though Rush encouraged her daughter to learn from Rush's experiences, McIntyre still found herself in the same situation, her mother said.

Friends of the family started a GoFundMe campaign to help Rush pay for funeral expenses.

McIntyre was buried in Fresno, according to her mother.

Anyone with information about the shooting can contact the LAPD's South Bureau Homicide Division detectives at (323) 786-5100. Anonymous tips can be made to the L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at (800) -222-8477 or the L.A. Crime Stoppers website.

Times staff writer Libor Jany contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.