Local News

Delay in Amber Alert Questioned

Posted January 30, 2007

— A day after a man stole a Jeep with a toddler inside from a north Raleigh gas station, questions arose about the delay in issuing an Amber Alert in her disappearance.

Jemica Bell had gone inside a Kangaroo-BP gas station on Wake Forest Road to pay for a fill-up Monday afternoon when a man drove off in her 1998 Jeep Cherokee, police said. Bell's 3-year-old daughter Jamyah Jones, was strapped in her car seat in the back of the Jeep, police said.

"I was pumping gas and I went in to pay for it, and someone drove off with my car just like that," a frantic Bell told a 911 dispatcher.

"And your daughter was in the car?" the dispatcher asked.

"Yes, she's asleep," Bell said.

The Jeep was found after about 90 minutes outside a shopping center at the intersection of Creedmoor and Strickland roads -- about seven miles from where the car was stolen. The toddler was still in her car seat and was unharmed, police said.

"This is a dramatic example of just how wrong things can go and how quickly they can go wrong," said Jim Sughrue, spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department.

A statewide Amber Alert wasn't issued until more than an hour after the child's disappearance, and some people have questioned whether authorities acted fast enough.

"There are some things that qualify for an Amber Alert and other things that don't, so we have to make sure when something happens that it is something that qualifies," Sughrue said.

Investigators said they are concentrating their efforts on finding the suspect and said it's too early to determine if Bell could face child neglect charges.

Last fall, a Rocky Mount mother was charged with misdemeanor child abuse after she left her daughter in a running car outside a convenience store and the car was stolen. The car was later recovered in Richmond, Va., and the girl was unharmed.

Police on Tuesday released surveillance pictures taken from the inside of the Kangaroo store on a man who matches the description of the car thief.

Witnesses said the man simply walked up to the Jeep, got in and drove off. He is described as about 6 feet 1 inch tall with medium build and was wearing a three-quarters-length dark coat.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the Raleigh Police Department at 919-890-3555.

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  • St Ives Jan 31, 2007

    I am a grandmother who watches her grandchild daily. As hard as it is, I will never leave her in the car. If I have to run into the post office , to mail a letter, we do it together. Drop off a movie , we do it together. I will never take a chance with her safty.

  • georgewilson11 Jan 31, 2007

    Take your keys WITH YOU mommy !

  • eldogg7 Jan 30, 2007

    im glad the little girl is ok,and im sure other kids are going to benifit from her moms mistake.

  • mommyto1 Jan 30, 2007

    Why would you leave your child in the car, with the doors unlocked? Sleeping child.. Wake her up. Cold weather.. Put a coat on her. There are too many sickos in this world to take that chance!

  • sw Jan 30, 2007

    It all depends on the situation... if she left the car running, or the keys in the ignition, then that's just plain stupidity. Yes I would call that neglect. But if she had the keys, then this guy was going to steal that car no matter what. Maybe we need stricter laws for car jackers... I would add kidnapping to the list and endangering a minor. Maybe she was in the wrong, but lets not forget the fact that someone stole her car.

  • roxannasweb Jan 30, 2007

    I am a mother, and I just dont see how somebody can leave their child in the car alone especially the way our society is today... I am so glad the police found the little girl unharmed.

  • Educate NC Jan 30, 2007

    I have mixed emotions about this story.....I am thankful that the child is okay. This situation could have been easily avoided. Maybe she and others will take this as a lesson learned.

  • mmeeksnc Jan 30, 2007

    I don't know too many parents who aren't guilty of this same thing. I have done it in the past, although I always locked the car and took the keys. Everyone is guilty of just not thinking sometimes. I am glad her baby is ok! The man might be a car thief, but at least he didn't hurt that baby....

  • kaecee Jan 30, 2007

    I understand what you are saying, wilson164. I am just saying she made a mistake like most parents do but her story made it to media. I am sure she didn't do it on purpose. Sometimes it's small things that we learn from which stop it from being big things. I am sure she was frantic knowing that her child was missing for that amount of time and not caring that someone was driving around Raleigh in the gas she just paid for (my sarcasm)

  • What The Deuce Jan 30, 2007

    Well Kelvin, in this situation I do think she was neglectful. However, I have no idea of her parenting skills overall so I cant comment on whether she is a neglectful parent as a whole or not. I was just merely trying to prove a point using sarcasm.