After more than 24 hours of exhaustive investigation, a local teen was located in Irving following what Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant called a “staged abduction.”
Alyssa Williams, 16, called an investigator with the Erath County Sheriff’s Office around noon Wednesday to report that she was alive and well. She is a freshman at Stephenville High School.
Chief Investigator Donnie Hensley instructed the teen to leave her current location, go to a phone away from the area and call 911. She was advised to tell Irving law enforcement officials who she was and have the department hold her until Hensley and Texas Ranger Sgt. Danny Briley arrived. By 3 p.m., Williams was being escorted back to Erath County.
The teen’s car was found abandoned at a rest area Monday night, but there were no signs of the girl. Bryant said in the early hours of the investigation the case appeared to be a “classic abduction.” But after several hours of interviews and investigation, including details provided by the teen’s acquaintances, the investigation switched gears.
Still, investigators breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday.
“Great police work and the joint efforts of everyone involved brought this child home safe,” Bryant said. “The hard work really paid off.”
In addition, Misty and Kevin Eaton, a local couple that the teen had been staying with, were elated to hear Williams was not in danger. The couple expressed gratitude to law enforcement officials who worked tirelessly to locate the girl.
“We are forever grateful,” Misty said.
Why no Amber Alert?
While many residents asked why local law enforcement officials did not issue an Amber Alert for the missing teen, Bryant said the process is not so simple.
Bryant said investigators made two failed attempts at issuing an alert during the early hours of the search. If approved, it would have been the first Amber Alert issued in Erath County since the program’s inception in 1996 and automation in 1998.
Although the system has been effective in returning children to their homes, due to requirements, Bryant said it is most effective in assisting in locating children who have been taken by a family member or parental abductions.
In requesting an alert from the Texas Department of Public Safety in Austin, law enforcement officials must first answer, “yes” to the following five questions:
• Is the child 17 years old or younger?
• Do law enforcement officials believe the child has been abducted without permission of a parent or legal guardian, or by the child’s parent of legal guardian who commits murder or attempted murder during the time of the abduction?
• Is there reason to believe the child is in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death?
• Is it confirmed that an investigation has taken place that verifies the abduction and has eliminated alternative explanations for the missing child?
• Is there sufficient information available to share with the public that could assist in locating the child, suspect or vehicle used in the abduction?
If any of the above questions are answered negatively, an alert will not be issued, as was the case with Williams. Bryant said previous missing children cases had also returned rejected alert requests.
Did Williams break the law?
Bryant said the teen committed no crime in staging the abduction. In fact, the only offense she committed was when she left her keys in the ignition of her abandoned, open vehicle - a class C misdemeanor.