A child prostitution case has expanded to at least seven men who an Upland woman is suspected of allowing to have sex with her 14- and 7-year-old daughters, according to court documents.
Three men have been arrested.
Donald Grafe, a 37-year-old truck driver from Columbus, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of sexually assaulting the 14-year-old girl between March 24 and April 11 at a truck stop at 4800 W. O St. in Lincoln.
If convicted, he could get at least 15 years and possibly life in prison.
Troopers already had arrested Shad Chandler, 41, of Lincoln, and Alexander Rahe, 38, of Omaha, both for first-degree sexual assault of a child.
Grafe, Chandler and Rahe are three of at least seven men the 35-year-old mother is suspected of allowing to have sex with her 14-year-old daughter at least 20 times, according to court documents. Authorities believe she also let three unidentified men have sex with her 7-year-old daughter, and that she may have watched.
“This is a very disturbing case,” Col. David Sankey, superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, said in a news release. "Our investigators working this case have nearly 30 years of experience and cannot recall a time where children so young were being sold into prostitution.”
Lancaster County Judge Mary Doyle on Tuesday set Grafe's bond at 10 percent of $75,000 and ordered him not to have contact with any children younger than 16. Prosecutor Matt Acton asked for a $250,000 bond. Grafe’s attorney, Bob Creager, said his client is a lifelong Nebraska resident and argued for a $40,000 bond.
Grafe made bail Tuesday; Chandler and Rahe were released Friday after posting $25,000 each.
Grafe's arrest and arraignment are the most recent developments in a case that started late last month when an unidentified informant tipped off a state trooper to nude photos of the girls allegedly texted to him by the Upland woman.
The patrol set up a sting, and the mother was arrested April 26 after she allegedly agreed to prostitute her older daughter for $200 to an undercover investigator in a Kearney motel.
She was charged with conspiring to commit sexual assault of a child and child pornography. She is in the Buffalo County Jail on a full $250,000 bond.
The Journal Star has chosen not to name the woman in order to protect the identity of her daughters.
Buffalo County Attorney Shawn Eatherton said he didn't know why a mother would put her daughters in such a position, but that any motive is irrelevant.
"It doesn't matter what the reason is when you're talking about these types of allegations," he said. “We’ve seen people make horrible decisions and commit horrible crimes for a variety of reasons. Trying to figure out why people do the things they do is a tough task.”
Lois Lee, president and founder of California-based Children of the Night, said the mother may have been trying to get money to buy drugs. Lee is not familiar with this particular case. The national nonprofit is dedicated to saving kids from prostitution.