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Crime News In Ice Cold Blood

What Is A ‘Romeo Pimp' And Who Do They Target?

"From my perspective, I have no idea what Ashley saw in Marcus,” Jodie Benson said of her stepdaughter's beau, claiming he was both violent and controlling.

By Ethan Harfenist
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Before Ashley Benson was found dead on Dec. 26, 2014, and her secret life as an escort was revealed to her loved ones, her family expressed misgivings about her new boyfriend, Marcus Giles — a man with a lengthy rap sheet who may have been responsible for pimping out Ashley.

“We found out about Marcus very slowly,” Ashley’s stepmother, Jodie Benson, says in the latest episode of “In Ice Cold Blood.” “We felt he was abusive. From my perspective, I have no idea what Ashley saw in Marcus.”

Jodie says her first experience dealing with Giles was during an incident in which Ashley called her family from a locked bathroom, apparently following an altercation with Giles. Giles allegedly didn’t want to let Ashley go anywhere, and the dispute was only solved after Ashley’s family called the police and her father arrived at the home.

Although this might have seemed like an isolated incident to Ashley’s family, it appears to represent the type of control Giles was attempting to exert over Ashley’s life, especially with regard to her escort activities.

Marcus Giles

After Ashley’s family gave Giles’ name to police following her murder at the Doubletree Hotel in Portland, Oregon, police looked into his past: He had some previous run-ins with the law, including a few assault charges. They questioned him at his apartment in Portland.

“He does admit that he took Ashley down to the hotel and dropped her off that night,” Portland Police Department Detective Bryan Steed says in the episode. “Our feeling is that he’s well involved in this.”

In fact, 11 months prior to the murder, a Multnomah County judge characterized Giles as Ashley’s pimp during a custody hearing, according to the Oregonian. While Benson denied that they were involved in any sort of pimp-prostitute relationship, she did admit that Giles wound up using some of the money she earned as an escort for himself.

Additionally, testimony during the hearing revealed that Giles was physically violent with Benson, at one point even giving her a black eye. The judge wound up ruling that Benson’s son was safer in the custody of his father.

“Whether Marcus was the one you would call the pimp, or whether he wasn’t it sure seems like he had a lot of control of her life,” Michele Michaels, a detective with the Portland Police Department, says in the episode.

To Rebecca Bender, an advocate for sex-trafficking victims, the type of behavior exhibited by Giles makes him seem like a possible “Romeo pimp.”

“A ‘Romeo pimp’ is typically a trafficker who pretends to be engaged in a relationship with a young, vulnerable person,” she says during the episode. “They’re targeting single parents, single moms. They know who to look for.”

Eventually, it would come out that Giles was aware of Ashley Benson’s client relationship with Chris Yoon, the man who would ultimately be proven guilty of strangling her to death.

“He said he was like a boyfriend of Ashley’s, but not really a boyfriend,” Steed says. “As I recall, he said something like, ‘Ashley benefits from that relationship financially.’”

Unfortunately for Benson, whatever the benefits of either relationship were, they were ultimately outweighed by the negatives — and they cost her her life.