Local News

Police: Family Should've Called Sooner About Missing Man

Posted April 22, 2008 6:09 p.m. EDT
Updated April 22, 2008 6:54 p.m. EDT

— Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Tuesday that issuing a Silver Alert for a missing Hillsborough man might not have prevented the man from being killed by a car over the weekend.

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. He had recently been diagnosed with dementia, they said.

He 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 vehicle was found a short distance away.

Villines' wife and daughter said they asked Durham police to put out an alert for him, but their requests were ignored.

The state's Silver Alert program, which started in December, is designed to more quickly locate adults with mental impairments like Alzheimer's disease. Bulletins are issued to law enforcement agencies and media statewide.

"He would've loved for somebody to have found him, yes. He'd be home with us right now," said Ava Johnson, Villines' daughter.

A state Highway Patrol trooper told the family that he stopped Villines at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday because he was driving erratically, but he let him go because there was no alert for law enforcement to be on the lookout for the man.

That occurred about 30 minutes before the family called 911 to report him missing.

Because Villines died about six miles from where he got lost, his relatives said they believe the trooper or other officers had time to locate Villines again if an alert had been issued.

"I think it would be hasty to say that would've made the difference," Lopez said.

The family waited five hours to report Villines missing, which gave officers less time to find him, Lopez said.

"I think timing is everything. We got it a lot later than we should have," he said.

Still, he said, it shouldn't take hours to implement a Silver Alert. Villines died almost two hours after his family notified police and asked that officers look for him.

"I don't know why there was the lapse. We're looking into it at this point," he said.

Lopez said he plans to go over Silver Alert protocol with his officers and will add information on Silver Alerts to the police department's Web site.