BALTIMORE – BALTIMORE -The letters come, one after the other, from the Otero County Detention Center in New Mexico to a bungalow-style home in Dundalk that is encircled by a chain-link fence and festooned in a ribbon of Ravens purple.
The letters are from Shelby Nichole Smith, who was an altar girl at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church and a top graduate of the old Southern High School before enlisting in the Army. Now she’s known by her childhood nickname, BeBe, and authorities refer to her in official documents as “the gossip girl.”
She has been writing relatives while awaiting trial on federal charges that she was the enforcer for a violent sex ring run by her boyfriend. Police say the ring lured women with the promise of a singing career and instead forced them to work as prostitutes and strippers across the country, but Smith remains defiant and has refused to cooperate with prosecutors.
“They put me in solitary confinement now,” Smith, 25, wrote in her latest letter home to Youngstown Avenue. “I guess they think that if they make me miserable I’ll start lying for them. … They locked us up already. Why do they gotta torture us?”
Her mother describes Smith as a “victim just like the other girls,” trapped, threatened and forbidden to leave or even call home while with the group. Her lawyer says there are no victims or suspects, or any coercion – that all of the women participated in the activities willingly.