Missing Kids Program Goes National

By Grant Boxleitner
December 01, 2005

Florida’s law enforcement blueprint for rescuing abducted children ‹ with
one success story already ‹ will be expanded to the rest of the nation.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice and Florida Department of
Law Enforcement made the announcement Wednesday at FDLE headquarters at
Page Field in Fort Myers.

“Parents need another tool to rely on,” said Cybele Daley, an acting
assistant attorney general with the U.S. Department of Justice. “Trained
regional teams will soon be poised to bring additional resources to help
recover children safely and return them back to their families.”

Florida’s Child Abduction Response Teams, or CART, began earlier this
year in response to the abduction and killing of 11-year-old Carlie
Brucia in February 2004. Joseph Smith was found guilty of murder in the
case earlier this month and awaits sentencing.

The response teams ‹ a collection of investigators, forensic experts,
Amber Alert coordinators, search and rescue professionals and others ‹
are deployed quickly to locate the missing child.

Like other mutual-aid plans such as responding to terrorism or a
hurricane, the teams have protocols and plans in place to find children,
FDLE Commissioner Guy M. Tunnell said.

“Time is certainly of the essence,” he said.

More than 200 Florida agencies are on board with CART, and 11 children
have been recovered, including an 8-day-old Fort Myers boy in July.

The response teams can be activated with or without the criteria needed
for an Amber Alert, the nationwide broadcast program that helps recover
missing children.

Missing-children advocate Don Ryce, the father of 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce,
said his son probably still would be alive today if the CART program was
in place a decade ago. His son was abducted at gunpoint, raped and
murdered just a mile from his home in Homestead in 1995.

Stiff sexual offender laws in Jimmy’s name were put in place after his
death.

“Good intentions are one thing, but you have to know how to respond,”
said Don Ryce, advisory board chair of the state’s missing child
clearinghouse. “They had plenty of good intentions, but that didn’t bring
my son back.
“They didn’t know what they were doing.”

A decade later, Lake Worth Police Chief William E. Smith put CART
techniques to use in the search for an 8-year-old Delray Beach girl who
was staying in Lake Worth.

More than 100 law enforcement officers searched areas of the city after
she went missing in May. They found her stuffed in a recycling bin inside
a 30-foot Dumpster with 200 pounds of rock and boulders on top of her.

Milagro Cunningham, 17, confessed to rape and attempted murder, Smith
said. Doctors said the girl would have died within an hour had she not
been found.

“Literally, no stone was unturned,” Smith said. “You can’t come in at 6
in the morning and say ‘what do we do?’ “The justice department has
committed $1.5 million to begin CART training sessions in 2006, officials
said. The first one is set for Jan. 23-27 in San Diego.

Copyright 2005, The News-Press.

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