Prosecutors charged a La Crosse man Thursday with child abduction and child sex trafficking after police caught him heading to Kenosha on Aug. 8 with a 17-year-old runaway.

According to a criminal complaint, the girl told police she asked 56-year-old William Gerrish for help after she ran away from her foster home on July 18. She said Gerrish gave her marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine, and had sex with her on multiple occasions at his home at 616 Fifth Ave. S.

One of Gerrish’s friends also had sex with her and gave Gerrish drugs in return, according to the complaint. She said he made her walk around the house in skimpy clothing when his friends were there to see if they were “interested” in her.

The girl said Gerrish wanted to make money by having her work as a stripper at bachelor parties. They were on their way to Kenosha, where Gerrish said he was going to do some roofing, when the car they were in was stopped on I-90 near Rockland.

According to a police report, Gerrish was in the back seat, staring straight ahead and sweating profusely. Police found 5.2 grams of marijuana in his sock and arrested him on a warrant that was issued when he failed to appear for sentencing in a 2016 drug case.

When questioned Tuesday in the La Crosse County jail, Gerrish initially denied knowing the girl. He later admitted he knows her but denied the allegations.

Gerrish was charged Thursday with seven felonies, including child abduction, two counts of child trafficking, and child enticement. The most serious charges carry a maximum 40-year sentence.

Judge Ramona Gonzalez imposed a $50,000 cash bond and ordered Gerrish jailed until his sentencing on the drug case.

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Rhymes with Lubbock. La Crosse Tribune reporter and data geek. Covers energy, transportation and the environment, among other things. Call him at 608-791-8217.

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