'Missing' investigates small town girl's journey from cheerleader to sex-trafficked 'hostage'

Corinna Paige Slusser disappeared in 2017. Is she trapped in a sex-trafficking ring?

ByKristin Thorne and Emily Sowa via WABC logo
Monday, October 24, 2022
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FULL EPISODE: Kristin Thorne examines the disappearance of Corinna Paige Slusser, who went from small-town Pennsylvania cheerleader to sex-trafficked "hostage" in New York City, where she vanished in 2017.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- In the new episode of "Missing," Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne examines the disappearance of Corinna Paige Slusser, who went from small-town Pennsylvania cheerleader to sex-trafficked "hostage" in New York City, where she vanished almost half a decade ago.

According to police, someone reported seeing Slusser leaving the Haven Motel on Woodhaven Boulevard in Rego Park, Queens early one September morning in 2017. She has never been seen again.

This is the story of a heartbroken mother's determined search for her daughter, along the way confronting dangerous pimps, mysterious extortion attempts, and confounding clues on social media in her quest for answers.

Is Slusser still alive, trapped in a sex-trafficking nightmare? Her mother, Sabina Tuorto, is hoping this investigation will help her find out what happened to her daughter.

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Here is a timeline of Corinna's case:

CORINNA SLUSSER TIMELINE
  • October 6, 1998 - Corinna Paige Slusser is born in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
  • September 2013 - June 2016 - Corinna attends Central Columbia High School then Bloomsburg Area High School. She participates in track and cheerleading. She has many friends and gets average grades.
  • September 2016 - Corinna begins her senior year at Bloomsburg High School, but decides she no longer wants to participate in track and cheerleading. Her grades start to drop. She starts hanging with a different crowd. She begins fighting a lot with her mother, Sabina Tuorto.
  • October 2016 - One week shy of her 18th birthday, Corinna and her friend are arrested for shoplifting at a local dollar store.
  • October 2016 - January 2017 - Corinna skips school regularly. She is routinely drinking and smoking pot.
  • January 2017 - Corinna drops out of Bloomsburg High School and begins attending an online charter school. She doesn't attend her online classes. She never received her high school diploma. On January 3, Corinna tweets text messages she sent Sabina telling her, "I need things to change. I need to be happy. I lost motivation and goals because of how unhappy I've been. I hate myself and I need to teach myself to love me and you. I want us to do it together. I don't want to be your disappointment but I'm sorry. I need you mommy. I want you to help me."
  • April 2017 - Corinna attempts to kill herself by swallowing 50 500mg acetaminophen (Tylenol) pills at her house. One of Corinna's friends calls Sabina at work and tells Sabina that Corinna is in an emergency room in Bloomsburg. Corinna is transferred to the ICU at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania. Her liver is failing and doctors inform Sabina that Corinna may need a liver transplant. More than a week later, Corinna recovers but is hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for three days. A friend of Corinna's tells "Missing" that when she visited Corinna in the hospital she was texting "a guy from New York."
  • May 2017 - Corinna gets a large tattoo on the center of her chest.
  • June 2017 - Corinna moves out of her home with Sabina and moves in with a friend in nearby Hazleton, Pennsylvania. She works at Applebee's.
  • August 2017 - Corinna abruptly moves out of the house in Hazleton. She tells her mother that her friend kicked her out and was refusing to give her any of her clothes. When Sabina calls the friend, the friend tells her that Corinna owes her rent money and she is not giving Corinna any of her stuff back until she pays her the money she is owed. Corinna's friend Kayleigh LeVan tells 'Missing' that a man picked up Corinna from the house and told the roommate Corinna wouldn't need her clothes anyway because he would buy her tons of clothes.
  • August 19, 2017 - Corinna posts on Facebook that she is in Brooklyn. Sabina texts Corinna asking what she is doing in New York. Sabina said Corinna made it sound like she was just visiting and had no plans to stay in New York.
  • August 2017 - Corinna becomes involved in the sex trade in New York City. Sabina said Corinna told her that she got a job doing "payroll" and was looking for a studio apartment.
  • August 25, 2017 (1:00 PM) - A man by the name Yhovanny Peguero allegedly assaults Corinna at the Harlem Vista Hotel. It's unclear how Corinna met Peguero. Peguero, 32, of Harlem, has been in and out of prison since he was 19-years-old. He's been arrested nine times and has been convicted of burglary, robbery, sex trafficking, promoting prostitution, assault, harassment, criminal mischief, possessing and selling drugs, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. According to police documents, Peguero allegedly stole $300 from Corinna. Corinna confronted Peguero who allegedly grabbed her by her neck, slammed her against a wall, and choked her. Corinna called 911 and was taken to the hospital.
  • August 28, 2017 - Yhovanny Peguero is arrested for assaulting Corinna. He's charged with assault, harassment, and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation. A judge issues a six-month order of protection against Peguero. The order states he is not allowed to have any communication with Corinna, including over phone, text, email, or social media, or he could face up to 7 years in prison. Peguero posts $1,000 bail and is released from jail.
  • A few days later - Sabina receives a copy of the order of protection at her home in Bloomsburg. She calls Corinna who tells her mother that everything is fine - that a man robbed her, but she is OK now and the man is in jail.
  • Early September 2017 - Corinna meets Ishi Woney, a 21-year-old aspiring rapper, who is later arrested on sex trafficking charges for prostituting Corinna and another woman.
  • September 3, 2017 - Corinna reaches out to Yhovanny Peguero over Facebook Messenger. She writes, "How are you, are you ok?"
  • September 7, 2017 - Peguero responds to Corinna over Facebook messenger in violation of the order of protection. He writes, "Hi how are u. Are u alright? And I miss u still."
  • September 7, 2017 - Corinna tweets about getting her first apartment in New York in Jerome Park in the Bronx. She writes with pictures of the apartment, "Never been more happier in my life. Forever dream accomplished."
  • September 8, 2017 - The last time Corinna updates her profile pictures on Facebook and Instagram. She writes, "Cheers to pumpkin spice and fall fashion in my new home."
  • September 10, 2017 - Corinna posts her last post on social media. She posted a picture of someone smoking what appears to be marijuana. She writes, "Cyphin mid day mid road is always good for the soul." It's unclear if it is Corinna in the picture. The identity of the person in the picture has never been confirmed. The location of the Instagram post is the Bronx.
  • September 10 - 20, 2017 - Ishi Woney and Corinna exchange 806 text messages.
  • September 11, 2017 - Corinna's aunt sends Corinna several text messages trying to check in with her after hearing that Corinna was assaulted. "I just found out what had been going on with my favorite niece," she wrote. "Going on? Not much is goin on what you mean," Corinna responded. The aunt asks Corinna about the man who hurt her. Corinna said her aunt shouldn't worry because he's in jail, which is a lie because Corinna had been communicating with Peguero over Facebook Messenger. "Well that won't happen again," Corinna texted her aunt.
  • September 16, 2017 (11:27 PM) - Ishi Woney sends a picture to Corinna over Facebook Messenger of himself, Corinna and another woman. The other woman would later be identified as one of Woney's sex trafficking victims. She was also advertised with Corinna as a "two girl special."
  • September 20, 2017 - The last day Corinna is seen. According to police, someone reported seeing Corinna leaving the Haven Motel on Woodhaven Boulevard in Rego Park, Queens early in the morning. Prosecutors believe Ishi Woney was with Corinna at the motel that morning. Police told Corinna's mother that the Haven Motel had no working surveillance cameras.
  • September 20, 2017 (around 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM) - Corinna calls her mother and says she wants to come home. Sabina tells her that she is going to her father's funeral in Florida and they will talk when she gets back. Corinna says she will try to take a train to Florida for her grandfather's funeral. She tells Sabina she is unable to fly because someone stole her driver's license and Social Security card.
  • September 20, 2017 (7:04 PM) - Corinna sends a Facebook message to Yhovanny Peguero asking to come see him. She wrote, "please let me come if not I could be locked up." She said a man left her at a motel "with no money and food."
  • September 20, 2017 (10:34 PM) - Yhovanny Peguero tries to call Corinna over Facebook. She doesn't pick up. This is the last Facebook interaction between Corinna and Peguero. We do not know if the two ever met up.
  • September 20, 2017 (5:40 AM) - Corinna leaves Kayleigh a mysterious voicemail and sounds frantic.
  • September 24, 2017 - Sabina leaves Pennsylvania to Florida for her father's funeral.
  • September 24, 2017 (10:48 AM) - Ishi Woney attempts to call Corinna over Facebook. She does not answer.
  • Late September 2017 - Sabina is trying to reach Corinna. Her phone is going straight to voicemail. Corinna is not responding to any text messages.
  • October 1, 2017 - Sabina returns to Bloomsburg. She gets in touch with Corinna's friends who say they have not heard from Corinna.
  • October 2 or 3, 2017 - Sabina files a missing persons report with the Montour Township Police Department in Bloomsburg, PA. A subsequent investigative report shows that Montour Township Police spoke with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office about Corinna's case and the order of protection she had against Yhovanny Peguero. According to the Montour Township report, the Manhattan DA's Office told them "given Peguero's background there is a concern that he may be holding Slusser against her will and prostituting her out for money."
  • October 19, 2017 - The NYPD emails Corinna telling her that "your family has reported you missing" and they want to know "if you are okay". Corinna never responds.
  • October 29, 2017 (6:31 PM) - Ishi Woney messages Corinna over Facebook. He says, "Hey I miss you. Can u just hit me up and let me know u ok."
  • Early November 2017 - Sabina takes Corinna's story to the media and her story goes viral on TikTok.
  • November 3, 2017 - Two NYPD officers interview a woman and Ishi Woney at a hotel in New Jersey about the disappearance of Corinna. We do not know what they told the police because the police will not release their investigative records on Corinna's case to "Missing" because Corinna is considered a victim of a sex offense. The NYPD would not do an interview with "Missing" to discuss Corinna's case. They said in a statement, "We are unable to accommodate the request for an interview. The investigation remains ongoing."
  • November 9, 2017 - A former detective in the Grand Prairie Police Department in Texas says he received a Crime Stoppers tip from the NYPD that Corinna may be in Grand Prairie being held captive.
  • April 2018 - Someone tries to extort Sabina for $7,500 saying that they had Corinna and were holding her captive. Sabina tries to wire money to them, but the money doesn't go through. The person said to meet them with the money in the parking lot of a women's hospital in Greensboro, NC. The NYPD advises Sabina that it could be a scam. Sabina almost goes but decides against it. She said the next day the person messaged her saying, "Remember this day though April 17, Tuesday 2018. Because it's the day you almost got her."
  • Spring 2018 - Sabina receives an anonymous letter in the mail to her home in Bloomsburg. The man only identifies himself as "Carlos C." He said he believes he saw Corinna on September 26, 2017, around 8:30 p.m. near 67th Road in Queens. He said the woman was chasing after his friend and was shouting that she was going to "sue him." The man identifies his friend by first and last name in the letter. He said he tried texting his friend after that night, but his friend never responded. "Missing" attempted to contact the man's friend, but could not find any working contact information for him.
  • Spring 2018 - The FBI becomes involved in the investigation. The FBI raids Corinna's room in Bloomsburg. They take some of her personal items and get a DNA sample from Sabina in case they find Corinna's body or other evidence of what may have happened to her. The FBI tells Sabina that Corinna's phone was last pinged in Jamaica, Queens.
  • February 26, 2018 - Police arrest Ishi Woney at a hotel in New Jersey for possession of drugs and for allegedly assaulting the woman who is pictured in the photo Woney sent to Corinna over Facebook messenger on September 16, 2017.
  • May 2018 - Yhovanny Peguero and Marcus McWright are charged with promoting prostitution in Manhattan. The Manhattan DA will not tell "Missing" who the prostitution charges involve, but according to court documents Peguero and McWright between June 7, 2017, and October 13, 2017 "knowingly advanced and profited from prostitution by managing, supervising, controlling and owning, either alone or in association with others, a house of prostitution and a prostitution business and enterprise involving prostitution activity by two or more persons for prostitution." Sabina said investigators told her that McWright posted online sex advertisements for Corinna.
  • October 31, 2018 - Ishi Woney is arrested on federal charges for sex trafficking Corinna and the woman pictured in the Facebook photo that Woney sent to Corinna on September 16, 2017. FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a press release, "As alleged, Woney compelled his victim to engage in prostitution through force and coercion, and he used both this victim and Corinna Slusser, who has been missing since September 2017, in online advertisements promoting prostitution."
  • November 28, 2018 - Ishi Woney is sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. During the sentencing, Sabina pleaded with Ishi to tell her where Corinna is. Sabina tells "Missing" that Ishi stood up in the courtroom, turned around and looked at Sabina, and said, "I don't know where your daughter is. I don't know if she's dead or alive. But I'm praying that she is." Ishi Woney is serving out his sentence at Terre Haute federal prison in Indiana. He is expected to be released on November 28, 2031.
  • Winter 2019 - Sabina sends a letter to the White House and President Donald Trump expressing her frustration with the FBI in New York who she says is not responding to her calls and emails.
  • February 14, 2019 - Sabina receives a response from the White House regarding her email. The letter stated, "White House staff reviewed your correspondence and forwarded it to the appropriate Federal agency for further action." Sabina said FBI officers in New York subsequently reached out to her and apologized for not returning her messages. Missing requested an on-camera interview with the FBI in New York to discuss Corinna's case, but they said, "We don't have a comment."
  • Spring 2019 - Sabina buys a phone and connects it to Corinna's phone number. All of Corinna's photos, apps, calendar reminders, and emails load on the phone, but not her text messages or her call log. They are completely gone. The FBI asks if they can have the phone. Sabina turns it over. Sabina says the FBI gave the phone back to her two months later. Sabina says they didn't tell her anything about what they may have found on the phone.
  • January 15, 2020 (11:18 AM) - Sabina confronts Yhovanny Peguero at one of his court hearings in Manhattan. Peguero tells Sabina that he thinks Corinna is alive and that she's "exploring" New York City. He tells Sabina that he never attacked Corinna at the Harlem Vista Hotel.
  • February 21, 2020 - Marcus McWright, of Forest Hills, Queens, is convicted of promoting prostitution. He is released from prison one month later on March 26, 2020. "Missing" believes he was released early due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the City of New York's attempt to clear the prisons.
  • June 4, 2021 (9:51 PM) - An NYPD officer arrests Yhovanny Peguero near Times Square. The officer said he spotted Peguero selling crack cocaine. The officer searched Peguero and said he found in Peguero's pocket several plastic bags filled with crack cocaine as well as a rock of crack cocaine. A judge remands Peguero without bail.
  • October 25, 2021 - Yhovanny Peguero is sentenced to 2-5 years in the New York State prison system on the drug and prostitution charges. He is housed at Bare Hill Correctional Facility in Malone, New York. He could be released as early as October 2, 2023.
  • November 13, 2021 - Corinna's social media accounts shows activity. Sabina said that she has not used Corinna's accounts, so does someone have access to her accounts, or is Corinna active on social media herself?
  • --------------------------------------------------------------

    This conception of the series "Missing" began back in September of 2021, the first day Kristin Thorne covered the disappearance of Gabby Petito and met with her distraught parents on Long Island. The story consumed the next two months of Kristin's life.

    Throughout this time, Kristin spoke routinely with Gabby's father, Joseph Petito. Most of what they spoke about, she has never reported, but one thing he made clear to her is that he wanted the media to cover other missing people. He said they deserved attention, too, and he was right.

    WATCH | Kristin Thorne on the emotional process behind investigative series 'Missing'

    Kristin started to look at databases of missing people across the Tri-State area and as she scrolled through the hundreds of faces, she thought about not only those people but their families and friends and the ripple effect of pain that is caused when they disappeared.

    She thought, "Maybe I can help?"

    She started calling private investigators around New York City looking for cases to profile.

    We first profiled the story of Leanne Marie Hausberg, which you can watch below.

    In our second story, we examined the disappearance of Chelsea Michelle Cobo, which you can watch below.

    Below, Kristin Thorne explains in her own words why she launched the new series, "Missing."

    WATCH | Kristin Thorne on the process behind investigative series 'Missing'

    If you know anything about the disappearance of Leanne Marie Hausberg, Chelsea Michelle Cobo, or Corinna Paige Slusser call the NYPD Missing Persons Squad at 212-694-7781. Tips can be kept anonymous.

    If you want to have a better viewing experience, did you know you can watch 'Missing' on your television set? Just make sure you add the ABC7NY app on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Android TV. To download our app, viewers can search "ABC7 New York" in the app store.

    The general public is able to add a missing person to the Department of Justice's national database of missing people called NamUs. Visit https://namus.nij.ojp.gov/ and click on "Register."

    CREDITS:

    Kristin Thorne | Writer, Producer, Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter

    Emily Sowa | Senior Digital Producer, Videographer, and Editor

    Stephen Cioffi Photographer

    John Sprei | Photographer

    Anthony Saturno | Photographer

    Evan Shumrak | Photographer

    Fred Mason | Photographer

    Rolando Pujol | EP Digital Content, Innovation and Strategy

    Jim Gorham | Vice President, Marketing

    Kim Dillon | Assistant News Director

    Peter Kunz | Assistant News Director

    Dana Bussey | Creative Director, Design

    Jason Kuffler | Graphic Artist

    Joseph Kollar | Graphic Artist

    Lesley Pierson | Graphic Artist

    Robert Monek | EP Web and OTV Digital Project Manager

    Adam Stephan | Managing Editor

    Brian McLaughlin | Assignment Editor

    Brandon Cook | Media Manager

    Brandon Nelson | Creative Director, Brand

    Johanna Trupp | Senior Marketing Producer

    Toby Hershkowitz | Marketing Producer

    Alex George | Digital Intern

    Luke Richards | Senior Manager, Content Development

    Chad Matthews | President and General Manager

    Debra OConnell | President, Networks Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution

    SPECIAL THANKS

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