Truman Road curves past a desolate corridor of gas stations, liquor stores and adult bookstores on the way east to Independence. The stretch is called Blue Summit, an unincorporated part of Jackson County known mostly for Erotic City, the adult-entertainment complex that includes a novelty shop, video booths and a strip club.
In the early evening hours of January 17, a 16-year-old boy walked the stretch of wasteland. It's not clear whether he was hitchhiking or walking the strip for another reason. But he found a way out of the 18-degree night when a man in a silver Mercedes offered him a ride. The boy climbed in. The ride was short.
The driver was a 6-foot-3, 180-pound African-American in his mid-30s who wore blue jeans, a red shirt over a thermal undershirt and a black jacket. He drove to Erotic City.
From the outside, Erotic City looks like an old, kinky general store. Opaque windows give off a reflection but not a peek inside. A sign on top of the building declares: "The in place for consenting adults." A picket fence shields a massive concrete parking lot that's big enough for several semis. Near the entrance, an outline of the state of Missouri marks "Erotic City USA" with a red star.
A naked, life-sized love doll is spread-eagle inside the doorway. "Her" blond hair puffs like a 1980s porn star. A sign on her see-through box says she "never says no." Sex toys, whips, platform shoes, dildos, vibrators and blow-up dolls clutter the walls.
A hallway leads to a bank of 26 video booths with solid doors and locks for privacy. Outside the booths, a "buddy button" illuminates when someone is looking to hook up. Inside, mirrored walls and vinyl-padded seats wrap around a video player. Some booths are big enough for at least 15 people.
The 16-year-old shouldn't have been allowed inside Erotic City; Jackson County requires sex -shop customers to be at least 18 to enter. The boy also shouldn't have been allowed inside a video booth, where men frequently meet for anonymous sex. But between 8:45 and 9 p.m., the man took him into one.
The teen later accused the man of sodomizing him. He escaped and called the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, which is still investigating the complaint.
Erotic City's owners deny that the teen was sodomized on their property. When told that the sheriff said the assault happened inside the sex club, Ron Boone, one of Erotic City's seven owners, tells The Pitch: "That is so not true.
"I don't know nothing about what happened, but I know it didn't happen on our property," Boone says. "We would know. The sheriff would have come in, and there would have been a crime scene and all that stuff. And it did not happen on our property."
The timing of the alleged assault was astonishingly coincidental. Three days before, Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders introduced an ordinance to crack down on sex in Erotic City's video booths. Sanders and county legislators were reacting to the November 5 guilty plea of Jesse Franklin Herd III, who had admitted to prostituting his 14-year-old stepdaughter in the club's "orgy room" to as many as 20 men starting in 2005. (Pick up next week's issue of The Pitch for more on Herd.)
At the January 14 meeting, Sanders compared Erotic City to the Wild West. "We have an industry that has virtually no regulation," he said. "Virtually anything goes."
Jackson County legislators met again on January 22 — five days after the alleged assault. Photographs shown at the meeting revealed that glory holes had been drilled into the walls of Erotic City's video booths. Legislators unanimously passed the ordinance outlawing locks and doors on video booths, sex acts in the booths and prostitution in the store.