Local News

Wayne County officials 'surprised' Amber Alert was issued

Posted August 1, 2008 5:21 a.m. EDT
Updated August 1, 2008 8:11 p.m. EDT

— Wayne County sheriff’s authorities said Friday that an Amber Alert for a missing 2-year-old Massachusetts girl surprised them, because they had been in contact with her father and considered the matter a custody dispute.

But the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, which issued the alert, said it was put out only after repeated attempts to get him to surrender to authorities and turn over his daughter.

After seeing the alert Friday morning, Joel Brown, 43, voluntarily turned himself in at the sheriff's office, sheriff's office spokesman Capt. Tom Effler said.

Authorities said Brown allegedly assaulted the mother of his daughter, Justice Rose Brown, during an argument at the child's day care in Chicopee, Mass., on Wednesday and left with the child.

The Chicopee Police Department then contacted the Wayne County Sheriff's Office for assistance.
Brown had been in touch with authorities since Thursday.

"He has been cooperating with us 100 percent," Effler said. "The child appears fine, happy. (She) doesn't seem like she's been harmed or in any danger at all."

Brown told sheriff's investigators that he and his daughter's mother were in the middle of a custody dispute but that neither had sole legal custody of the child.

A Massachusetts court granted the mother, whose name was not released, temporary emergency custody Thursday afternoon when Justice's health became a concern, police said. The child has severe allergies to nuts and takes daily medication. Brown was probably not aware of his daughter's medical needs, police said.

Chicopee police and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were able to contact Joel Brown Thursday evening and urged him to surrender to police and turn over his daughter. When he would not, the Amber Alert was issued.

Brown will not face charges in North Carolina but does face a charge of felony kidnapping by a parent as well as one count each of assault and battery and reckless endangerment of a child. He denies assaulting his daughter's mother.

Brown has waived extradition and was in the Wayne County jail Friday afternoon. Justice was reunited with her mother Friday morning.