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Amber Alert hoax cost taxpayers; could hurt the system

Posted May 20, 2008

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— An Amber Alert that sparked a two-day search for a 3-year-old boy in Johnston County was a hoax. With the boy's safety no longer in question, people are starting to question why it happened and what it cost taxpayers.

State authorities issued the Amber Alert on Sunday after Siraj Munir "Roji" Davenport was reported missing from the Brightleaf Flea Market.

They canceled the Amber Alert at 12:27 a.m. Tuesday after police said the boy was safe – though they have not said where.

Smithfield Police Chief Steve Gillikin didn't say much about how this all came to be, just that Roji is safe and with family members. A close friend of the boy's family told WRAL he was overseas.

Roji was never even at the flea market, Gillikin said. That is where a woman identified as the boy's mother, Rosnah Thomason, said he disappeared while she was loading her car.

“It upsets us. We just don't know what to understand by that. We don't know what to think,” said Paula Allen, director of the pre-school the boy attends.

Local, state and federal investigators searched Sunday and Monday by air, ground and water for the child, and FBI investigators spent most of Monday interviewing Thomason.

“There's been a lot of man-hours spent. There's been a lot of money spent,” Gillikin said.

Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said his department alone spent thousands of taxpayer dollars looking for the boy.

“Unfortunately in situations like this, it makes the next one that comes along that much more difficult,” Gillikin said.

It's not possible, the chief said, to put a price tag on what the cost of the false report will be in the long term for credibility in the community.

“I think it desensitizes the public to these situations – that when they see these in the future, there's more of an inclination not to pay that much attention to it. So it hurts all around,” Gillikin said.

Short-term, however, everyone with whom WRAL talked was just thankful the boy was safe.

“I don't feel like we wasted time because I feel like whatever comes of this, we helped in some way,” former pre-school teacher Karen Barbour said.

Gillikin declined to elaborate about the case, saying only that a joint investigation with the FBI is ongoing. The FBI, also, would not comment. Neither Gillikin nor the FBI would explain what brought the federal agency into a local missing-child case right away.

It is still unclear whether charges will be filed against Thomason. Gillikin said that would likely be determined at the conclusion of the investigation.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • WilloWSnapper May 21, 2008

    it could be that the father kidnapped the child and fled to his home country and she was upset that she would never see him again, either way she needs to do time and pay money

  • NC is my home May 21, 2008

    You can put a price on it too! Add the hourly rate of each state employee, state vehicle, etc. It will add up pretty fast. Plus it is a crime to put in a false crime report. She should be fined for that as well! This is tax money WASTED by someone who may not even be a citizen & doesn't pay taxes anyway. Send a bill & then deport the parents!

  • Tarheel born May 21, 2008

    For those of you crying to dismantle or dismiss the Amber Alerts - please rethink your position. As a LEO for over 20 years, I chased dozens of "ghosts". Mostly, and I mean no disrespect, from women crying rape. I've spent sleepless nights and days running from one false lead to another until the trail simply lead back to the one who cried wolf.I, my coworkers AND my family were all extremely p.o.'d.

    BUT, that did not keep me from going full steam ahead the next time a woman reported being assaulted to find the suspect. Or, for that matter any other crime that was reported. And, I'm sure that the Smithfield PD, the Johnston Co. SO, the SHP and/or the FBI will do the same efficient and dedicated job the next time a child is reported missing.

    DO NOT blame the system, i.e. Amber/Silver Alerts, blame the culprit who misused the system.

    Encourage your General Assembly representatives to strengthen the laws against such crimes.

  • lauren67 May 21, 2008

    I do agree the parents, especially the mother, should go to prison. However, I do not agree the little boy should be "handed over" to the DSS. It is not his fault what happened so he should not have to go live in a foster home or have adoptive parents. 85% of those children end up being molested, abused physically and mentally, on the streets, or suicidal. I had a friend that was a foster child growing up and every one of these things happened to him. My friend ended up taking his life last April at the age of 29 b/c he would constantly think about his past no matter what. I don't want this to happen to that little boy or anyone else. This is a very sad situation! I will keep paying attention to the Amber and Silver Alerts no matter what.

  • Mr. Keeping It Real May 21, 2008

    The Mother should be held accountable, face charges and pay restitution. I bet the county CPA can "roughly" calculate what it cost tax payers!

  • Brick CIty Girl May 21, 2008

    Admiral - shouldn't we wait and see if the father had anything to do with this, or even any knowledge of it before we lock him up?

  • Tarheel born May 21, 2008

    No. 1: She committed a crime by filing a false police report about a missing child. So she could be prosecuted. No. 2: The "biggie", she lied to a FBI agent, a federal violation of an 'obstruction of justice' statute. That 'could' get her some serious time.

    Now we all know, in spite of our anger, that there's virtually no way she could reimburse all the money all the agencies spent in looking for a ghost. So, let's lobby for active prison time. Maybe, and it's a big maybe, the next person may think before they file a false report to the police, sheriff or feds OR use the 'Amber Alert' or 'Silver Alert' system illegally.

    We can only hope!

  • TheAdmiral May 21, 2008

    Lock both parents up - give them the bill - charge them with felonies - turn the kid over to DSS - have the parents work off their stupidity for $.02 per day in prison - then when they have paid it back - let them out.

  • Brick CIty Girl May 21, 2008

    According to the N&O, the parents were living together, and Dad was in Asia on business when Ms. Thomasson sent Raji to members of her family in Singapore, then reported him missing. Sounds like maybe Mom wanted to leave, but didn't want to share custody. If that's the case, let's hope she doesn't have to share custody-- that Dad gets full custody, plus child support, and that the county gets reimbursed every penny spent.

  • whatelseisnew May 21, 2008

    Agreed this woman not only needs to go to jail, she needs to pay the costs she caused.