Local News

Sheriff: Lack of communication led to Raeford Amber Alert

Posted December 14, 2012

— Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin on Friday blamed a lack of communication by social workers for an Amber Alert being issued Thursday night for a Raeford boy who was later found at his mother's home.

The North Carolina Center for Missing Persons issued the alert for 12-year-old Pacen Ryan Joyce shortly after 7 p.m., claiming he had been abducted by his mother, Karen Gardner Joyce.

When a WRAL News crew knocked on Joyce's front door at about 10:30 p.m., she answered and said she was stunned to learn authorities were looking for her and her son.

"I can't abduct my own child," she said, noting that no deputies had gone to the house to check on her whereabouts.

Peterkin disputed that on Friday. "First of all, we want people to know we checked the home. We did go," he said.

Hoke County deputies checked the house at 175 Secretariat Court in Raeford at about 6 p.m., he said, and found only a dog at home. No car was there.

"Normally, when we get an Amber Alert, to be honest with you, they don't go back home. That was very unusual," he said, explaining why deputies weren't monitoring the house.

Joyce told WRAL News that she had picked up her son from school and took him to the doctor before returning home around 5:30 p.m.

The Hoke County Department of Social Services reported Pacen missing at about 4 p.m. DSS had deemed Joyce a danger to the child a few days earlier after she underwent a mental evaluation, Peterkin said.

East Hoke Middle School Hoke school unaware DSS wanted custody of student in Amber Alert

But East Hoke Middle School Principal Erica Fortenberry said the school didn't get any warning not to let the boy leave with her.

"My question to DSS (was), at what point should there have been custody assumed so that the school would know that the child was in danger," Peterkin said. "Why wasn't the school notified that the child was going to be in danger with the mother?"

DSS Director Della Sweat said her staff didn't do anything wrong.

"We have carefully reviewed this matter and determined that the Department of Social Services' handling of this matter complied with applicable laws, rules and regulations, as well as internal policy and protocols," Sweat said in a statement.

Joyce has had legal custody of Pacen, although he has been living with a neighbor, the sheriff said. DSS officially took custody of him Thursday night, and he was with Child Protective Services on Friday.

Peterkin said Joyce won't face criminal charges because of the Amber Alert.

"She had not committed a crime that we know of because nothing was done to say that she was wrong," he said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • JohnFLob Dec 17, 2012

    Yes I know Who is on first. You are indeed correct.

  • fishon Dec 17, 2012

    I like the original story better, it was less confusing...

  • superman Dec 17, 2012

    Does anyone know who is on "first".

  • driverkid3 Dec 17, 2012

    Sounds to me like someone has a major gripe against this woman. I noticed her arm was in a cast/sling typoe thing. How did that happen? She mentioned at one point that she had been beaten or something by her husband, I think it was.

    DSS, for the most part, isn't worth the powder and shot to blow them up!

  • Sherlock Dec 17, 2012

    Sheriff peterkin will tell you every time he did nothing wrong and then fire a few depties. The problem with that is he does everything wrong and does not listen to them.

  • cruzinlong Dec 14, 2012

    there's something very " Hokey" about this story.

  • MuddyBrute Dec 14, 2012

    "DSS had deemed Joyce a danger to the child a few days earlier after she underwent a mental evaluation . . ." WHAT!!!! Based upon a DSS evalation. By who's examination? If it was a valid diagnosis why wasn't the child taen aat that time?? This DSS is SLACK!!! Mom said she arrived back home at 5:30p. Sheriff sid PoPo checked the house at 6:00p"


    On a different note, Sheriff Peterkin stated in an interview with Brian Mimms on the Noon News, that the Sheriff's Dept. received a anynomus tip @ 9:30 pm that the mother and child was at the residence the he supposedly abducted from, and after the arrivial of the 1st WRAL Reporter @ 10:30 pm knocking on the door and physically speaking to the mother and calling the Sheriff's Dept. and explaining to them that he had personally spoken to the mother, the Sheriff's Dept. still hadn't sent an officer to investigate the anyonmus tip they received @ 9:30pm.

  • Alexia.1 Dec 14, 2012

    My mother once asked a social worker why they decided to pursue that degree in college. The answer was "it was one of the easiest degrees to get." I think that explains a lot.

    There are so many stories where social services workers did something that was hurtful to children and adults alike. Worse, I don't think they should have power to simply remove a child from a mother who has not harmed the child.

    So, the lady "underwent a psychological evaluation" and based on those results, she was determined to be a danger to the child? I'd be more interested to know whether she had ever hurt or threatened to hurt the child. To heck with the "psychological evaluation". I want facts, not opinions -- and that's precisely what that is.

    Here's my opinion: taking the son away from a loving mother hurts them both.

  • ljwhitmire Dec 14, 2012

    Sadly, this is par for the course with DSS. I've heard similar stories of "poor" communication with them.

  • rdc42179 Dec 14, 2012

    "What we have here is a failure to communicate"