Local News

State Official: Missing Children Case Did Not Meet Amber Alert Guidelines

Posted January 24, 2006

— A man with his two children, on the run from law enforcement, was arrested Monday afternoon in Maryland, authorities said. While the children were found unharmed, new questions have arisen as to why an Amber Alert was not issued when the children were taken.

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    U.S. Marshals arrested Rene Cardoso at about 3:30 p.m. Monday at a residence in Prince George's County, Md., near Washington, D.C. He now faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and damage to personal property.

    Morrisville police said that on Sunday, Cardoso, 31, assaulted his wife, Griselda Cruz, from whom he is separated, with a wrench in the parking lot of Neomonde Bakery on Chapel Hill Road. Before police arrived, Cardoso left with his 11-year-old son, Patrick Cardoso, and 2-year-old daughter, Camila Cardoso-Herrera.

    Authorities had considered Cardoso to be armed and dangerous and thought that his children may have been in danger.

    "Based on the assault of (Cardoso's) wife, we do feel the children are endangered and are currently using all of our law enforcement resources to locate the suspect and the children," said Paul Gross, a spokesman for the Morrisville Police Department, before the arrest Monday.

    Because an Amber Alert is not the sole decision of local law enforcement agencies in North Carolina, the Morrisville Police Department contacted the state Crime Control and Public Safety about using the Amber Alert system, but was told the case did meet guidelines.

    "It's absolutely some of the hardest decisions law enforcement has to make," said Mike Robertson, the director of the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement agency.

    Robertson said the decision to use the Amber Alert system is made between state and local authorities.

    "It was a decision between the investigator and the missing persons staff on call that (the Cardoso case) did not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert," Robertson said.

    Robertson said the system is a good one that was designed primarily to deal with stranger abductions. In parental abductions, he said there must be a direct threat to the child or a history of violence involving the child.

    "If we abuse the emergency alert system then the public becomes desensitized to it," Robertson said.

    But not everyone agrees. Adam Hartzell heads Interact, a nonprofit organization that advocates for victims of domestic violence. He believes an Amber Alert should be used in cases similar to Sunday's.

    "I think this is a great example of where the abuse is so severe against the mother that we need to realize the children are automatically in danger as well," Hartzell said.

    Since 2002, the state has used the system 16 times -- three of those cases involved parental abductions. In each case, the children were returned safely.

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