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Springfield comic charged with child sex trafficking

Police say Stephen Ardrey crossed the country to have sex with a "delayed" teen

September 13, 2013|Mary Moloney, KSPR News Reporter | mmoloney@kspr.com

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A Missouri man is charged with child sex trafficking in the case of a developmentally delayed girl from Massachusetts who disappeared this week and was later found safe in Rhode Island.

Stephen Ardrey, 30, of Springfield, Mo., made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Providence on Friday.  He is also charged with transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal activity.
 
Friends couldn't believe the accusations.

"When he first meets people, he's not really very friendly, but once he gets to know you, he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet," said Mark Archambeault, a Springfield comedian with The Laughing Stock. "Only guy who's ever brought me lunch at work for no reason, he's invited me and other comics out to dinner and paid for the dinner. He was just really passionate about stand-up. Really really nice guy all around, honestly."

Archambeault met Ardrey in January. He said Ardrey was new to town and interested in Springfield's comedic scene.

"It was very hard shell at first, but once you got to know him, he would bend over backwards, he would do anything, give you the shirt off his back," said Archambeault.

Other Springfield comics don't have the same impression of Ardrey.

"He was a very interesting comic," said Steven Wallace of Front Row Comedy Shows. "He did not understand people having a different point of view. He liked his way. He's a very intelligent and very smooth talking type of person and he is he's very bold, but he's a very weird guy."

Ardrey hasn't been seen in Springfield lately. According to his facebook page and to friends, the comic traveled to the east coast to do stand-up. Friends also said he needed to take care of a medical condition.

However, police said Ardrey had a different mission, to meet 17-year-old Brittany Thompson. Her parents said the teen is developmentally delayed and very trusting. Monday, cameras caught the two meeting in a Massachusetts library. Thursday, police caught the pair, after a tipster spotted Ardrey walking along a Rhode Island road with the missing girl.

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Under federal law, age 17 is considered a minor.

"Are you kidding it's a miracle.  A miracle that it happened this way.  Of course I'm happy.  And every average guy, average person out there should be happy because this is the one time the kid didn't get hurt," said Jim Pugliese, who called police.

The feds put Ardrey in custody and searched his motel room. Friday, a judge ordered Ardrey held without bail.  Prosecutors say he has a prior conviction for pimping.

"It's just mind blowing," said Archambeault. "I'd like to remember Steve Ardrey for the guy he was who concentrated on trying to make people laugh and bring you know happiness in their life and it's kind of hard to think of that he'd be capable of something like this."

"It's definitely a shock," agreed Wallace.

If convicted on the two federal charges, Ardrey could spend up to life in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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