ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — Lareina Barrows has been fighting to give her mother Sharon Hurley a voice – for years.
“I was six months old when my mother was murdered. It was February 24, 1981,” Barrows said.
Barrows said her mother – who was 24 at the time – was a sex worker and was trying to get both of them out of St. Louis for good.
Police are investigating four recent crimes in St. Louis in which they say sex workers have been the victims.
“I don’t know if she was working the night she was picked up, but somebody picked her up … or multiple people picked her up,” Barrows said. “She was raped, she was strangled, she was stabbed. Just a lot of horrible things happened to my mother. And then her naked body was thrown off the Poplar Bridge that connects St. Louis to East St. Louis.”
Barrows only recalls what people told her when she was much older. Her mother’s body was found on the Illinois side of the river, and she remained a Jane Doe until her dental records helped identify her.
The case remains unsolved to this day, 40 years later. Throughout her life, Barrows says her mother’s death turned into a wake-up call to change her own life after seeing how people treated her mother’s life.
“I became a mother myself, and I was also a working girl in Las Vegas. [It] just came the full circle of I can’t end up like my mother,” she said. “I just think that my mother was forgotten, and I think women that work in escort, and do whatever, a lot of times we are forgotten and we don’t have a voice, and it’s not fair.”
Katie Rhoades is the founder and executive director of Healing Action, a group that helps survivors of sexual exploitation.
“It’s not unusual for crimes against sex workers to take a while,” Rhoades said. “For a variety of reasons, and unfortunately, they don’t always get solved.”
Seven Black women have been shot in St. Louis and two of them were killed in the last seven days.
Rhoades says that fear remains heightened today as crimes against sex workers have recently escalated in St. Louis. Right now, two murders involving sex workers in the metro area are under investigation, as part of a recent series of killings police say may possibly be linked to the same person.
“The narrative around it has been definitely focused on how can the women on the streets protect themselves when the actual narrative is how can we continue to teach boys and men to not victimize women,” Rhoades said.
Barrows is not just urging for justice for her mother, she also wants to see swifter action for these victims and other women like her mom.
“For them not to be forgotten and not for their profession or lifestyle to be what comes first,” Barrows said.
If you know anything about these recent killings or even the 1981 case, people are urged to contact St. Louis police or CrimeStoppers at 866-371-8477.