RALEIGH – A Smithfield man was sentenced Wednesday (today) in federal court to three consecutive life sentences in prison for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion and of a minor; sex trafficking by force fraud and coercion; sex trafficking of a minor; using the internet to promote a prostitution business enterprise (ITAR); and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Jonathan Lynn Jenkins, aka “Max,” 48, and his co-conspirator prostituted many women between November 2014 and October 2015, including minors. The victims were young, vulnerable, and often struggling to survive. After luring the victims with promises of food, shelter, and a better life, Jenkins and his co-conspirator manipulated and controlled the victim’s lives, isolating them, withholding food, and keeping all money the victims earned.
The defendant beat and choked the victims, sometimes to unconsciousness. He emotionally and psychologically abused them. Among other threats, he claimed to have magical powers that allowed him to hunt down victims and kill them.
He sexually assaulted victims and forced them into sexual acts against their will. And he attempted to murder a man who helped one victim escape, according to court records.
On March 1, 2021, Jenkins was convicted of those crimes by a jury after a five-day trial. Jenkins was also ordered to pay restitution in an amount of at least $418,361.70.
Before imposing the sentence today, Judge Dever described Jenkins as “an extraordinarily dangerous human being” and his crimes as a “form of modern-day slavery.”
In 2006, Jenkins was charged and convicted of second-degree murder in the 1998 execution style slaying of Joseph Richard Vestal at the Clayton Estates Mobile Home Park. Jenkins was not charged for 8 years until DNA evidence was found on a mask he wore. During sentencing Jenkins claimed he was a devout Christian with a wife and three children. He served less than 8 years in prison for the crime.
In 2016, Jenkins was arrested in the 17 year murder investigation of Elton Demond Whitfield who was reported missing to Clayton Police in March 1999. His body was discovered in April 1999 in a field near Lake Myra Road in Wake County. The first degree murder charges are still pending in Johnston County Court.