The first time Mia met Ariana, she tried to act cool. They were hanging out at a friend’s place and Ariana, 17, was rolling weed in a cigar wrapper.
Mia was 12 years old, with sparkling blue eyes, brown hair and a big smile. She had never smoked pot before, and when she took a hit of the blunt, she tried to suppress her creeping paranoia.
She was in seventh grade and didn’t want to make a fool of herself in front of the drug dealer, who was a popular junior at their local high school. Shortly after that night in 2012, Ariana began following Mia on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, and inviting her to hang out all the time.
Ariana, who liked to wear hoop earrings, would drive Mia and her friends to the water park or the bowling alley. She took them to house parties, where no one treated them like 12-year-olds.
At the mall, Ariana let Mia pick out expensive things like Jordans and told her she had pretty eyes and a nice body. Mia, who asked to be identified by her first name only, loved the attention.
Her parents were bartenders who worked nights and often drank too much. “Ariana could just sell you a dream,” Mia said. “I just thought she was a goddess.”
But Mia says Ariana also had a quick temper. She could be scary, hitting Mia when she annoyed her. Mia learned to stay quiet and do what she was told. She started to help Ariana sell drugs, and hung out with her at strip clubs.
Still, Mia felt like the older girl cared about her — but then Ariana introduced her to a man in his late 20s named Jared. Mia testified that he was about 6-foot-5 and weighed more than 250 pounds, lived in a trap house where people did drugs, and gave her cough syrup mixed with soda to get her high.