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Police, Family Question Denial of Silver Alert

Posted April 21, 2008
Updated April 22, 2008

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— The death of a Hillsborough man has raised questions about a communication breakdown in the state's Silver Alert system for people with brain disorders.

Jasper Villines, 73, was helping his wife return a rental car to Raleigh-Durham International Airport at about 6 p.m. Saturday when he took a wrong turn off the Durham Freeway and became lost, relatives said.

Although he had recently been diagnosed with dementia, he insisted he could follow his wife to the airport from their Hillsborough home.

"He said, 'Oh no, I can do this. I can drive. I'll follow you,'" Leola Villines said.

Jasper Villines was walking east in the westbound lane of N.C. Highway 98 at about 12:45 a.m. Sunday when he was hit by a car at the intersection with Sherron Road and was killed, authorities said.

His wife and daughter said they think he was trying to find his way home when he was hit. His vehicle was found a short distance away.

"I feel like he could've been found and wanted to be found," Leola Villines said.

They question why Durham police refused their request to issue a Silver Alert on him hours before he was killed.

The state launched the system in December to more quickly locate adults with mental impairments like Alzheimer's disease. Bulletins are issued to law enforcement agencies and media statewide.

WRAL.com sends subscribers a Breaking News alert and posts that on the Web site whenever a Silver Alert is issued for someone in the WRAL viewing area.

Leola Villines called Orange County 911 from her home to report her missing husband and was transferred to Durham County dispatchers because Jasper Villines was last seen in Durham.

Eventually, the Villines' daughter, Ava Johnson, went in person to the Durham Police Department to request a Silver Alert. She said officers turned her down.

"I said, 'Why? Why you can't do this?' They say, 'You're father is not old enough,'" Johnson said. The state issues Silver Alerts for people of varying ages, including one recently for a 24-year-old man who suffered from a mental impairment.

The North Carolina Center for Missing Persons oversees the Silver Alert program, and center officials said they can activate an alert only at the request of a local law enforcement agency.

"We were very concerned because it seemed like nobody cared," Leola Villines said.

Durham police initially told WRAL Monday that they didn't have a record of the case. Later, department spokeswoman Kammie Michael said officers issued a bulletin for police to be on the lookout for Jasper Villines, even though there was no Silver Alert.

Michael said the department is looking into why the family's request was denied.

Leola Villines said she knew her husband of 50 years was in declining health, but his sudden death is hard to take.

"I really can't describe because we were very, very close," she said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Apr 23, 2008

    What a joke! I, like everyone on here, am wasting my time on this one. Why would anyone blame the "Silver Alert System" or the Durham PD for this one. Someone please show me HOW IN THE WORLD either of them can share ANY BLAME?!?! The Police Department didn't cause or aid, IN ANY WAY, in the death. And the Silver ALert System didn't exist a year ago. It wasn't developed as a fail-safe. It was simply developed as an aid to "POTENTIALLY" help! It can NEVER BE BLAMED for ANY death! Some people need to get a life! Maybe that's me for taking the time to Post on this article. An elderly man got in a car, wasn't able to handle the situation, and had an accident. The family can dwell on whether his keys should have been taken. My family had to dwell with that exact case with my Mom's dimentia/Alzheimers. Also with my Dad's lack of physical ability. And I can tell you its NOT an easy thing to deal with. But we did!

  • paythepiper Apr 22, 2008

    Sue, Sue Sue!!! Thats all one hears today. While I do think that there should be an investigation as to why the alert was not issued, I also feel that if the family were to sue, they would lose. Why? Because of something called "contributatory negligence." Why was this man allowed to drive? His family knew he had dementia and should not have allowed it. This mans death, while tragic, is not the governments fault.

    My heart goes out to his family.

    We had to stop my father from driving quite some time ago because of dementia. It was a hard thing to do, but in the interest of the motoring public and for his safety, it had to be done.

    Again, my condolences to his family in this time of sorrow.

  • zeitghost Apr 22, 2008

    So much for protect and serve.

  • Common Sense Man Apr 22, 2008

    "When it happens to your love one and no silver alert was put out when asked, will you still be running your mouth?

    I have to respond here since dataclerk posted this on my profile, yet she doesn't have one. First of all, I agreed that a silver alert should have been issued. Second, I haven't been "running my mouth," I simply disagreed that suing was the right action. If disagreeing with someone equals "running my mouth," I guess you're always right and everyone else is always wrong. (Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight)

    Your other post, "Thanks, I am glad you all got my point!
    dataclerk" after making 4 consecutive posts, proves my point.

  • Common Sense Man Apr 22, 2008

    "Atleast this way its going to a family that was wronged instead of a politicians pension or mortgage payment for their vacation home!"

    While I agree that the alert should have been issued, I doubt the family would win if they sued.

  • Mom of two Apr 22, 2008

    Looks like they need to do some cleaning in Durham. I'd sue too if I were the family.

  • tesy Apr 22, 2008

    Wow. That made me cry. That's horrible.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Apr 22, 2008

    Yes we all know the tax payers will pick up the tab. I won't, I don't live there. lol lol

  • Why Is My Slim Physique Envied Apr 22, 2008

    TICKLE ME ELMO: Uhhh, they will take the same amount of money out my check regardless. Atleast this way its going to a family that was wronged instead of a politicians pension or mortgage payment for their vacation home!

  • Common Sense Man Apr 22, 2008

    "I say sue too! In our society, the only way to go about change for the better is to hit people in the wallet."

    Uhhhh, you do realize that the only people it would hit in the wallet would be taxpayers, right?