When she was growing up in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, Corinna Slusser always dreamed about living in a big city. In the summer of 2017, the 18-year-old decided it was time to make her dream a reality; without telling her mother, she moved to New York City. Corinna arrived in Brooklyn on August 19, 2017, excited about her future in the city. Over the next month, however, Corinna’s life in New York City started to spiral out of control. On September 20, 2017, she called her mother and told her that she wanted to return to Pennsylvania. She never got the chance; later that night, Corinna vanished without a trace.
Although Corinna had tried to portray an idyllic life when she posted on her various social media accounts, things in New York City weren’t what she made them out to be. Corinna had moved to the city after connecting with an older man who bought her a new wardrobe and paid for her lodging. The teen likely didn’t realize she was being set up until it was too late; within days of arriving in New York City, Corinna was deeply involved in the city’s thriving s*ex industry.
Up until about a year before she moved to New York City, Corinna’s life had been that of a typical girl growing up in a small town. She attended Bloomsburg Area High School, where she was a popular student; she was a cheerleader and on the school’s track team. She wasn’t an academic standout, but she did well enough in all of her classes and wanted to one day become a makeup artist.
There was a shift in Corinna’s behavior shortly after she started her senior year at Bloomsburg Area High School in September 2016. She quit the cheerleading squad and started hanging out with a new group of friends; she also started skipping class frequently. In October, she and a friend were arrested after they were caught shoplifting at a local dollar store. After that, Corinna seemed to lose all interest in her academic career. She started drinking, then smoking pot, and her grades plummeted. Her mother, Sabina Tuorto, encouraged her to just finish the year so she could graduate with her class, but in January 2017 Corinna decided to drop out.
Sabina insisted that Corinna work towards getting her high school diploma, so she agreed to enroll in an online charter school. She soon stopped attending her virtual classes, however, and was dropped from the program. Although she hid it well, Corinna started to get increasingly depressed. In April 2017, she decided she no longer wanted to live and overdosed on Tylenol.
Corinna was rushed to the emergency room of Bloomsburg Hospital, where they determined she had swallowed at least 50 extra-strength tablets and was in danger of liver failure. She was transferred to an intensive care unit in Danville, Pennsylvania; after doctors there were able to stabilize her, she was transferred to a psychiatric unit so she could be treated for her depression.
After her release from the hospital, Corinna returned to the home she shared with her mother, but their relationship was strained. According to Sabina, “We were starting to butt heads…we were starting to argue a lot. Corinna wanted to live with her aunt in Massachusetts, but when that fell through she decided to move in with a friend who was living in Hazelton, Pennsylvania.
At first, it looked like Corinna was doing better. Although she never went back to finish her high school education, she got a job at a local Applebee’s and seemed to be trying to become a responsible adult. Things started to fall apart when she realized that she needed more money than what she could make working as a hostess. Friends said she would occasionally work as an escort, acting as arm candy for wealthy men. The money was addictive, and Corinna was soon living beyond her means. She stopped paying her share of the bills at the rental house she shared with her friend; in August 2017, the friend decided she was fed up with footing all the bills and kicked Corinna out of the house.
When Corinna called her mother, she tried to put all the blame on her friend, telling her mom that her friend had kicked her out for no reason and was refusing to give her any of her clothing back. Sabina called the friend to see what was going on and learned that Corinna owed her friend money and the friend said she was keeping Corinna’s belongings until Corinna paid what she owed.
Just days later, on August 19, 2017, Corinna posted on Facebook that she was in Brooklyn, New York. When Sabina saw this, she called her daughter and asked her what she was doing in New York. Corinna brushed off the questions, but her mother got the impression that she was only visiting the city temporarily and would soon return to Pennsylvania.
Corinna had no intention of leaving New York City. Unbeknownst to her mother, Corinna had moved to the city at the request of Yhovanny Peguero, a 32-year-old man who had an extensive criminal record. No one knows where the two met — friends recalled that she had been texting “a man from New York” shortly after her suicide attempt — but investigators speculate that they met online.
Yhovanny had picked Corinna up in Pennsylvania shortly after she was kicked out of her friend’s home. He told her friend that Corinna wouldn’t need to return to pick up her belongings because he was going to buy her a new wardrobe. He also promised to set her up in her own apartment, and Corinna believed him. Sabina noted, “She’s a clever girl, but she’s from a small town…she doesn’t have the street knowledge to survive out there.” She got into his vehicle carrying only her cell phone and some identification.
Yhovanny might have promised Corinna an apartment to call her own, but instead, he booked her a room at the Harlem Vista Hotel in Manhattan and started advertising her se*xual services online. He told her that he would provide for all her needs — food, clothing, and a place to stay — but all of the money she made had to be turned over to him.
Corinna wasn’t easily broken. On August 25, 2017, she called 911 after getting into a physical altercation with Yhovanny. When an officer arrived at the Harlem Vista Hotel, Corinna told him that Yhovanny had stolen $300 from her while she was in the shower. When she confronted him about the theft, he attacked her. Corinna claimed that he grabbed her by her neck and threw her up against the wall, but she managed to break free and call for help.
Yhovanny was gone by the time the police officer showed up to take her report, but Corinna was still extremely upset; she was sobbing and shaking and indicated that she wanted to press charges. Yhovanny was arrested three days later and charged with assault, harassment, and criminal obstruction of breathing. The court also issued a temporary protection order prohibiting Yhovanny from having any contact with Corinna for six months.
Although she was shaken up by the experience, Corinna wasn’t about to leave her new life in New York City. She didn’t mention the attack to anyone; her mother only found out about it when a copy of the protection order was mailed to her home. Sabina was horrified when she realized what it was and immediately called Corinna for an explanation.
When confronted by her mother, Corinna tried to downplay what had happened at the hotel. She told Sabina that she had been robbed, but insisted that she was fine and that the person who had robbed her was in jail. She was wrong. Yhovanny had been arrested for the attack but had immediately paid $1,000 in bail and was allowed to walk free pending trial.
Shortly after her altercation with Yhovanny, Corinna met Ishi Womer, a 21-year-old who was deeply involved in the s*ex trade business. It didn’t take long for Corinna to fall under his control, and he began advertising her se*xual services on various websites. Some of the advertisements included pictures of another woman with Corinna; they were listed as a “two-girl special.”
While working for Ishi, Corinna stayed at the Haven Motel in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens, New York. On September 7, 2017, she posted pictures of an apartment in the Jerome Park section of the Bronx with the caption, “My first apartment to myself in NYC!!! Never been more happier in my life. Forever dream accomplished.” The pictures, however, were stock photos from the apartment’s website; it’s unclear if Corinna ever moved into the building. It seems more likely that she was simply trying to impress her social media followers and trick them into thinking she was living a wonderful life in New York City.
For the next two weeks, Corinna appeared to be staying at the Haven Motel in Queens, likely under the direction of Ishi. She was last seen leaving the motel on the morning of September 20, 2017; although there were no surveillance cameras at the motel, witnesses claimed that Ishi had been with her when she left.
Around 5:00 pm on September 20th, Corinna called her mother in Bloomsburg and told her that she wanted to move back to Pennsylvania. Sabina had sad news for Corinna; her father — Corinna’s grandfather — had just died and Sabina was on her way to Florida to go to his funeral. Corinna was upset by the news and said she wanted to go to the funeral, but her driver’s license and social security card had been stolen from her, meaning she was unable to board a flight. Although she didn’t see any way to get to Florida in time for the funeral, Corinna told her mother she wanted to get out of New York and was going to try to get a train back to Pennsylvania. No one knows if she tried to purchase a train ticket; she was never seen again after September 20th.
When Sabina returned to Bloomsburg after her father’s funeral, she expected to find Corinna waiting at home for her. There was no sign of her at the house, however, and calls to her cell phone went straight to voicemail. She called several of Corinna’s friends, but none of them had been able to get in touch with her. Concerned, Sabina called the Montour Township Police Department and reported her daughter missing.
When investigators in Pennsylvania started looking at Corinna’s case, they immediately noted that she had obtained an order of protection against Yhovanny Peguero less than a month before she vanished. Hoping to learn more about the pending case against Yhovanny, a detective called the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. What they learned made them fear for Corinna’s safety.
A representative from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office didn’t mince words when speaking with an investigator from the Montour Township Police Department. “Given Peguero’s background, there is a concern that he may be holding Slusser against her will and prostituting her out for money.”
It’s doubtful that Corinna knew much about Yhovanny’s criminal background when she got involved with him; if she had, she might have thought twice about going to New York City with him. He had been arrested at least nine previous times and had spent much of his adult life in jail or on probation. Past charges included things such as assault, burglary, criminal mischief, drug possession, promoting prostitution, se*x trafficking, and selling drugs. There was no doubt that he had been trafficking Corinna, but was he linked to her disappearance?
It was clear that Corinna continued to contact Yhovanny after he assaulted her; despite what she told her family, she knew that he was no longer in jail. On September 3, 2017, using Facebook Messenger, she asked Yhovanny, “How are you, are you okay?” Despite the order of protection that prohibited him from having any contact with Corinna, Yhovanny responded, asking how Corinna was and telling her that he missed her. It’s unclear if the pair met up in person or only corresponded online, but Yhovanny risked a seven-year prison sentence for violating the protection order.
Corinna had also been in constant contact with Ishi in the week leading up to her disappearance and he was one of the last people known to have seen her. Between September 10th and September 20th, Corinna and Ishi exchanged more than 800 text messages, but they appeared to have some kind of falling out on September 20th. Witnesses believed that one of Ishi’s other se*x traf*ficking victims was jealous of his relationship with Corinna, leading to him kicking her out of the room he had rented at the Haven Motel.
Shortly after 7:00 pm on September 20th, Corinna reached out to Yhovanny again, this time begging him for help. She told him that a man — likely Ishi — had left her at a hotel. “Can I come to you? Please let me come…he left me in a short stay that’s up soon with no money and food.” She seemed to acknowledge that Yhovanny risked getting into trouble if he had any contact with her, noting, “I’m just scared to come to you because of everything.” Despite this fear, she sent him nearly a dozen messages, pleading for his help.
Yhovanny didn’t immediately respond to Corinna’s messages; at 10:34 pm he attempted to video call her through Facebook, but she didn’t answer. There was no more communication found between the two of them, and it remains unclear if Yhovanny ever met up with her or not.
Four days after Corinna was last seen, Ishi tried to get in touch with her, but she didn’t answer his call, either. More than a month later, on October 29, 2017, Ishi sent Corinna a Facebook message, writing, “Hey I miss u. Can u just hit me up and let me know u ok.” If Corinna saw the message, she didn’t respond.
From the start of their investigation, detectives believed that Corinna was a victim of s*ex trafficking and had most likely been moved outside of New York City. They repeatedly interviewed those who had been in contact with Corinna in the days and weeks leading up to her disappearance but were unable to find any solid evidence of foul play.
Although authorities were unable to link either Ishi or Yhovanny to Corinna’s disappearance, there was ample evidence that they were involved in criminal activity. In February 2018, Ishi was arrested on federal se*x trafficking charges; he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Yhovanny would later be arrested for drug possession and promoting prostitution. Neither man has ever been charged in Corinna’s disappearance.
Sabina believes that either Ishi or Yhovanny hold the key to finding her daughter, and she made sure she was present in court whenever they had hearings. At one point, she confronted Ishi, demanding to know where Corinna was. Ishi insisted he had no idea. “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 alive.”
Yhovanny also denied any knowledge about Corinna’s whereabouts, stating that he believed she was out there enjoying life in New York City and simply didn’t want to contact any of her friends or family members.
Sabina refuses to give up the search for her only daughter. “Corinna is all I think about. I never feel happy. It takes every bit of my energy just to get up every day.” She believes that Corinna is still alive but is being held somewhere against her will, forced to work as a prostitute. “My biggest fear is that I’ll never get closure, that I’ll never learn what happened to her.”
Corinna Paige Slusser was just 18 years old when she vanished in New York City in September 2017. Due to the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, police believe that Corinna is a victim of s*ex trafficking and was likely moved out of the state shortly after she was last seen. Corinna has blonde hair and blue eyes, and at the time of her disappearance, she was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 140 pounds. She has a tattoo of a large black flower in the center of her chest. If you have any information about Corinna, please contact the New York City Police Department at 212–267–7273 or the FBI’s New York office at 212–384–1000.