PORTSMOUTH, OH (WOWK) – Following the death of accused sex trafficker Michael Mearan, former journalist Nikki Blankenship is sharing her involvement in shedding light on the accusations.

Blankenship was one of the first individuals to bring this story to light and through the years her journey has been rough, but she says getting the truth to the public was worth it. She was a reporter with a local newspaper in Portsmouth in 2017 when a disturbing tip came across her desk.

Thanks to an anonymous source, she was able to acquire an affidavit of a federal investigation into human trafficking in the tri-state. One of the names she read was a familiar one in local circles, an attorney and former city councilman Michael Mearan.

Investigators suspected Mearan of working with a city judge to release female suspects on bail or parole in order to traffic them as prostitutes.

Blankenship wrote an article based on this information, but it never saw the light of day.

I was told unless I was willing to reveal the source of the affidavit, who at that time was very concerned… The paper I was with was not going to let me publish.

Nikki Blankenship, former journalist

Blankenship left the newspaper and published the story on her own using social media. She says her main goal was not to gather attention, but rather to answer victims’ family members’ questions.

The next day Blankenship was contacted by other media outlets, which led to more exposed secrets in the city of Portsmouth.

Portsmouth resident Megan Lancaster was listed in the affidavit as a potential prostitute working for Mearan. She is still missing to this day. Blankenship says other family members have speculated that their missing daughters were involved with Mearan too.

Mearan was eventually arrested in 2020 and charged with multiple counts involving sex trafficking. He was expected to be in court in January 2022.

Although Mearan is dead, Blankenship says she believes there is still more to come.

Now we don’t know how much he was involved in the missing women or the dead women. Mike Mearan was not running a human trafficking ring by himself.

Nikki Blankenship, former journalist

There’s no word yet on Mearan’s cause of death. We have reached out to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office for an official statement. We have not heard back yet, but we will keep trying.