CHICAGO - Police and prosecutors in Kane County say they are investigating the bizarre case of a Texas couple under arrest for selling their 14-year old daughter to an Elgin couple for sex.
Steven Marks and Lila Miller had negotiated a price of $17,500 for the girl, according to investigators in Rockwall, Texas. When they were shortchanged by thousands, police say the couple retrieved the girl from Illinois and drove her back to Texas.
According to affidavits filed in the case, Steven Marks is the biological father of the teenager-the oldest of seven children he has fathered. The teenager was "knowingly sold so that the child would engage in sex acts and be involved in a Common-Law marriage to a male subject believed to be about three years older than the child," according to court records.
The girl had been reported missing in September, and the Texas Department of Public Safety launched an investigation to find her in November.
While suburban Chicago authorities are focusing on the yet-unnamed buyers, Marks and his wife are charged in Texas with purchasing or selling a child for sex. They are being held at the Rockwall County Jail on $1 million bond.
"This is a fake charge that my ex-wife put on me," Marks said during an interview at the Rockwall jail. "I have no reason to sell my children, I love them. I would die for them."
In a jailhouse interview, Marks told ABC-TV Dallas affiliate WFAA that the charges against him, his wife and his parents are all bogus.
When Marks was arrested, authorities questioned his parents, Davy and Dorothy Marks, who both said they hadn't seen their 14-year-old granddaughter in four months. During their interviews, Mark's mother allegedly phoned her grandson, Miller Marks, at his home, where the child was being held to warn him.
As Miller Marks was leaving the home in Mesquite, the child was able to escape and call 911 from a nearby McDonald's restaurant. The grandparents were arrested on charges of harboring a runaway-their granddaughter who had been placed on the human market.
Marks claims the teenage daughter had run away from foster care, not sold. He says that's when his ex-wife began circulating stories that he was trying to sell the 14-year-old for cash.
"If I hided her, I wouldn't have been in the same homes. I would have been in a different state. Different country. Different city," Marks said.
Now, the Texas child-welfare agency has taken the rest of Marks' children.
"Child services came to my house, they tested the young three little kids that I have with my new wife Lila, showing that they have marijuana in their system. So they removed my children and placed them in child services," he said.
After the Elgin deal fell through and Marks and his wife returned from Illinois, investigators say they tried to negotiate a new deal to "sell the child to another family in Florida."
Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon confirms that prosecutors "have been in communication with the Elgin Police Department about this situation, which remains under investigation."
"The investigation is ongoing," said Elgin police spokesperson Kristie Hilton. "We have no new information to release at this time," Hilton said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety confirms the arrests but is declining comment on grounds that the investigation is ongoing.