HIV-positive suspect facing felony prostitution charge in Elizabethtown

By Katrina Helmer with WDRB News

Peyton Lee

Photo from WDRB.com

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (WDRB) — A drug bust in Elizabethtown escalated to felony prostitution charges for one of the suspects.

“In my nine years of law enforcement, this is the first time I recall we’ve used this charge,” Elizabethtown Police Officer John Thomas said.

Around 10:30 p.m. last Monday, Elizabethtown Police officers responded to a call for a strange chemical smell coming from an apartment in a home off Central Avenue. Thomas said Charles Smith, 68, rents the apartment and answered the door. Inside, officers also found 47-year-old Chasidy Johnson and 23-year-old twins Payton and Layton Lee.

Officers found evidence of cocaine, marijuana and other drug paraphernalia in the apartment. All four men were arrested of various drug charges. But Thomas said things took a turn while officers were questioning Smith and Payton Lee.

“During the investigation, Charles Smith acknowledged that he had solicited sexual favors from Payton Lee in exchange for payment,” Thomas said. “Mr. Lee also acknowledged that he was HIV positive.”

Payton Lee was also charged with prostitution. The crime is normally a misdemeanor, but being HIV positive bumps the charge up to a felony. And according to Kentucky law, it does not matter if Payton Lee warned Charles Smith or not.

“If someone is HIV positive and they engage in acts of prostitution whether or not it’s divulged beforehand,” Thomas said.

Smith is not currently charged with soliciting, but Thomas said that could eventually happen based on his admission.

If anyone comes forward saying they might have been exposed to HIV by Payton Lee, Thomas said it could trigger a bigger investigation.

“If it’s far after the fact, it could be difficult because there will be a lack of physical evidence to prove that case,” Thomas said. “But certainly, there could be further investigation if that were the case.

“Obviously, prostitution is illegal. And this, to me, just highlights the dangers when you don’t know the person that you’re dealing with.”

Smith, Payton Lee and Chasidy Johnson have bonded out. As of Monday afternoon, Layton Lee was still locked up in the Hardin County Detention Center. Payton Lee’s first court appearance will be at 9 a.m. Friday.

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