A 44-year-old woman has sued King County, contending that as a teenage runaway nearly 30 years ago, sheriff’s deputies investigating a prostitution ring knew she and other girls were being trafficked for sex by the operators of a Federal Way massage parlor, but failed “to exercise even the slightest care” to remove or protect her.
Instead, deputies continued to conduct an undercover investigation for months before authorities ultimately sought to arrest and charge Michael Larry Landry and Rochelle King for promoting prostitution in 1994, the lawsuit says.
In the meantime, the woman — identified in court documents only by her initials, R.M. — alleges she remained captive, beaten, raped and forced to sell herself for sex at The Golden Touch massage parlor and through escorts services until she escaped from the couple’s home in Bellevue, according to the suit.
In the decades since, the woman has suffered deep emotional trauma, struggled with drug addiction and returned to prostitution to support herself at times, according to her lawsuit and a deposition she gave last year.
A spokesperson for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said that as of Friday morning, the office had not been served with the lawsuit and deferred comment to the Sheriff’s Office. A spokesperson for interim King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall said in an email Friday the Sheriff’s Office is “unable to comment on pending litigation.”
R.M. is the second woman to sue King County since 2020 over sheriff’s deputies’ handling of the undercover probe that spanned from late 1992 to mid-1994 into Landry’s and King’s prostitution enterprise, which was run largely through The Golden Touch and other massage parlors and escort services.
Last year, the county agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle the lawsuit of a 45-year-old woman identified only as M.T., who as a teenager in 1993 was given a ride to and dropped off at The Golden Touch massage parlor by an undercover detective, records show. Landry and King later forced M.T. into the sex trade.
Like M.T.’s lawsuit, R.M.’s legal complaint — filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court — draws heavily on deputies’ own affidavits, investigation notes and other records from the time that authorities used to help convict Landry and King in 1994 for multiple felony counts of promoting the prostitution of women and girls, including M.T. and R.M.
“The practice was just to leave these girls and women who were being victimized in there while they kept investigating,” said attorney Lincoln Beauregard, who with lawyer Evan Fuller represents both women.
“You had cops going in there, getting massages from teenage girls, while already having this business under surveillance for months,” Beauregard said. “They should have busted the place and stopped this … but they let her and others be pimped out for months while they kept working the case.”
Restricted and threatened
A year ago, R.M. — then a witness in M.T.’s case — told prosecutors during a deposition that she was introduced to Landry and King by a woman from her neighborhood about the time she turned 16 in 1993. By then, she had dropped out of high school and run away from home, she said.
“I know that my age was in question for being in the massage parlor, and I know it was a point of concern for them both because I was only 15 or 16,” R.M. said during the deposition. Landry then took her to his home in Bellevue and he and King told her she could live and work there as a nanny for their three kids, she said.
R.M. said she did cook for and watch the couple’s kids, but Landry and King also forced her to work in the massage parlor and go on escort calls. The couple took all the money she was paid, she said.
“I had been mentally conditioned to do those things, and I was very afraid obviously,” R.M. said, “ … and I hated it, and I believed that that was what I was worth.”
The couple wouldn’t let her leave, restricted her to certain parts of the home, kept her away from telephones and threatened her, she said.
Landry “kept a baseball bat in his room and basically would just tell me, ‘Don’t think about leaving or talking,’” R.M. said during the deposition. “And Michael didn’t physically force me but feels like he mentally forced me to have sex with him a lot.”
The couple also brought other girls to the home, including M.T., who had been friends with R.M. in middle school, she said. When M.T. asked R.M. why they were being kept there, R.M. recalled telling her to “just listen to what they say so they don’t hurt us and … just don’t say anything.”
“I remember being afraid that she would like say the wrong things,” R.M. said. “ … I feel bad I didn’t stick up for her, but I didn’t know how.”
One night in about March 1994, R.M. said she secretly made a phone call to an old friend, who showed up in his car late that night after the couple went to sleep. He helped her escape.
All the while R.M. was held captive, sheriff’s records show deputies had been investigating King and Landry, surveilling them at the massage parlor and elsewhere, and knew they were sexually exploiting girls as prostitutes, her lawsuit contends.
Had deputies acted then to enforce child sexual exploitation laws, the suit contends R.M. could have been removed “from Landry’s prostitution ring in 1993 — if not earlier … preventing her from months of sexual victimization and rape.”
After she escaped, R.M. said she initially returned to live with her mom, went to cosmetology school and “tried to rebuild my life and pretend like it didn’t happen.”
But she said she soon fell back into drug use and answered an ad to work as an escort “because I feel like that … was what I was worth.”
She moved around the country, working in the sex industry on and off for several years and served three prison terms for drug and drug-related offenses, she said. During her last stint, she joined a peer-led counseling group for trafficking survivors and has since received about five years of intense trauma therapy, she said.
Now a married mother of three, R.M. last year was working as a licensed cosmetologist. She’s been sober for eight years and is a devoted Christian, she said.
Still, she has trouble trusting people and struggles with post-traumatic stress and dissociative disorder, she said. “I freeze and I don’t know how to deal with things.”
In 2020, when M.T. reconnected with her on Facebook, the two women eventually talked a few times. Later, R.M. looked up an old article and saw Landry’s photo, triggering a “very severe PTSD attack” that resurfaced painful memories, she said.
She contacted M.T. again “to see if I was like crazy,” she told prosecutors.
“I was like, I don’t know if this is real or what’s going on, and the attack lasted for about three months. And it was during that time that I kind of started to really want to deal with this more in depth.”