9 Investigates: DeBary child sex trafficking survivor speaks out

by: Karla Ray Updated:

DEBARY, Fla. - A DeBary teenager, who survived months of child sex trafficking and forced drug use at the hands of her parents, is speaking out in hopes one of the men who prosecutors say raped her will receive a harsher sentence.

9 Investigates first reported on the arrest of Michael and Cynthia Graves in 2014. Since then, between the two of them, they were sentenced to only six years behind bars.

Now 18, the former victim wants her story to be heard in and out of court.

“I want to feel safe in my own community and I want justice,” Makell Ware told Channel 9 investigative reporter Karla Ray.  “I do feel cheated out of justice, that’s why I want to speak out now and I want the truth to be known.”

Makell Ware was born Makkel Graves.

She changed the spelling of her name and her last name after her birth parents, Michael and Cynthia Graves, were arrested in 2014. 

Investigators say Cynthia sold her own daughter to men for sex in exchange for drug money. 

Both parents were accused of drugging her to the point of addiction.

“When you’re a kid, you automatically want to trust your parents, so that’s what I did.  I trusted them,” Ware said.

Investigators claim Cynthia Graves arranged appointments with men, including former restaurant owner Bob Richards, who allegedly paid to have sex with Ware for months. 

Richards died before he could be prosecuted.


Related stories:

Police expect more arrests in prostitution bust involving restaurant owner

DeLand restaurant operator jailed, accused of using underage girl as prostitute


“I’ve been tied up, handcuffed. It was like I was in constant danger,” Ware said. 

She claims all the men knew she was under 18 at the time.

Despite the horror, Ware said she experienced, Michael Graves struck a plea deal on child abuse charges and served one year behind bars. 

In another plea deal, Cynthia Graves was sentenced to five years in prison for sex crimes involving a minor. 

Prosecutors admit if she had gone to trial, she faced 25 years. 

Prosecutors told 9 Investigates the plea deals were done to prevent the young victim from being forced to testifying, which they said can cause more trauma.

“It’s like a slap in the face, it really is, because without a second thought, she sold me to all these men,” Ware said.

Though the teen wasn’t able to influence the sentence for her parents, she hopes for harsher punishment against one of those men. 

John Szolosi was identified as suspect two years after prosecutors said he paid to have sex with Ware. 

He’s now fighting charges of lewd and lascivious molestation and paying a minor for sex.

“I don’t want to feel like a case number anymore. I want to feel like this last guy will actually have to pay for what he's done to me,” Ware said.

Ware told 9 Investigates she pulls strength from her new mom, Holly Ware, who has been by her side since the day agents raided her home and arrested her birth parents. 

Szolosi is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing later this month.