When teenager Hope Votaw looked to run away from home after having issues with her mother, she found support in an online friend. However, trusting that person would soon turn out to be a terrible choice for Hope. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Web of Lies: Stolen Youth’ chronicles how the teenager was forced into sex trafficking and later abandoned by William Bernard Jacobs and an accomplice. So, if you’re curious to find out where he might be today, we’ve got you covered.
Who is William Bernard Jacobs?
During spring 2012, Hope was a 14-year-old about to graduate middle school in Allen, Texas. At the time, she lived with her mom and stepdad but had problems at home. As per the show, Hope struggled to make friends at school, so she turned to people online for comfort. At that point, the teenager met a single mother, Shayla Williams. Hope told her she was 19 and the two seemed to become good friends. When Hope finally decided to leave home, Shayla offered her a place to stay.
Soon, Shayla and a man named William Bernard Jacobs picked Hope up sometime in July 2012, taking her to an extended stay hotel in Lewisville, Texas. In the meantime, Hope’s mother, Denise, got a hold of the number her daughter called to reach Shayla and tried to reach her. Denise then told Shayla that her daughter was only 14 years old and not 19, as she mentioned before. However, Hope didn’t make it back home. About three days later, Denise went to the police, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later, on July 30, 2012, that the authorities found her.
Eventually, they learned the truth about what happened. Shayla had met William sometime in May 2012 and got involved in sex work, with whatever money she made going to William. After the two took Hope to the hotel, they had sex with her, smoked marijuana, and took her pictures to advertise. Over the next few days, William took Hope to several states to meet more than 30 clients, and he charged $100 and $150 depending on the duration of the sessions.
Shayla, who later cooperated with the authorities, said that William took all the money that the clients paid for her and Hope. The police also learned that William regularly provided the girls with marijuana and was particular about what they had to do, sometimes turning abusive. After they all returned to the hotel in Lewisville, William and Shayla abandoned Hope there and fled on July 30, 2012. The two were arrested at another hotel in Arlington, Texas, in August 2012, after tracking Shayla’s cell phone.
Where is William Bernard Jacobs Now?
Investigation revealed that some of the clients appeared to be students, including a faculty member of the University of North Texas. William, then about 30 years old, eventually agreed to a deal with the prosecution. He pled guilty to sexual assault of a child and trafficking of a person under 18 for the purposes of prostitution. For that, William received a 20-year sentence. As for Shayla, her cooperation landed her a reduced sentence of five years. She was arrested again in 2018 for violating her sex offender registration requirements. Prison records indicate that William remains incarcerated at the WJ Estelle Unit in Huntsville, Texas. He will be eligible for parole in August 2022.
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