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Experts: Child abductions at home relatively rare

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Experts: Child abductions at home relatively rare

Post by Olympicana_Reloaded on 07.05.13 8:32

Published April 23, 2012

Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. – Polly Klaas. Elizabeth Smart. Megan Kanka. The names are synonymous with a parent's worst nightmare: a child snatched by a stranger from the safety of her own home.

Now, police in Tucson, Ariz., are trying to determine what happened to 6-year-old Isabel Mercedes Celis. Her parents say they awoke on Saturday to find her missing. Police said a window was open with the screen pushed aside.

While officers are investigating all possibilities in her disappearance, experts say, abduction from the home is relatively rare, with just over 18 children taken each year.

"It's unusual, but it's not unprecedented," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is involved in the search.

Each year, 58,000 children are abducted by strangers and released, according to the most recent statistics. Of those, 115 were "stereotypical" kidnappings carried out by strangers who either killed the children or held them for ransom. And 16 percent of those were taken from home.

Nearly three quarters of the victims are girls, and 38 percent of them are 12 to 14. At 24 percent, the second largest victimized group is the one Isabel belongs to: girls ages 6 to 11.

In Tucson, the possibility that a kidnapper could be in their midst unnerved some parents.

"I put two-by-fours in their windows this morning," said Erin Cowan, who has worked with Isabel's mother at Tucson Medical Center and has a daughter, 7, and son, 12. "I guess you can't be too careful, sadly."

Since Saturday, investigators and volunteers fanned across Isabel's neighborhood and an area landfill searching for clues. Volunteers posted fliers with a photo of Isabel -- about 4-feet-tall with brown hair and hazel eyes -- holding a school award.

Her parents, identified by friends as Becky and Sergio Celis, told investigators they last saw the first-grader at 11 p.m. Friday. Her mother, a nurse, was at work Saturday when her father went to wake her at 8 a.m. and discovered her missing.

Police call the case a "suspicious disappearance/possible abduction."

"We're not ruling anything out of the investigation at this point because we really need to keep our mind open about all the information that's been brought to us," police Chief Roberto Villasenor said.

On Monday, FBI dogs -- one that can find human remains and the other used for search and rescue -- went through the home and turned up information that required a follow-up, but police declined to say what that was.

Officers are also interviewing sex offenders in the area. It has become standard practice for all abduction investigations.

When 12-year-old Polly Klaas disappeared during a slumber party in 1993 in California and was strangled by a man with a long criminal record, there were no police protocols, said her father, Marc Klaas.

"Every time a child would disappear, they would invent that wheel all over again," said Klaas, who travels the country speaking about child abduction. "Now almost every agency in America has some handle on how to launch a missing child investigation."

Polly's case served as a model for the FBI's first missing child protocol and also prompted California voters to pass the state's three strikes law, which requires harsh prison sentences for repeat offenders.

Congress didn't pass the federal Megan's Law until 1996, inspired by the case of 7-year-old Megan Kanka in New Jersey. She was raped and killed by a known child molester who lived across the street. Now federal law requires that every state have a procedure for warning neighbors when a sex offender moves nearby.

John Evander Couey, who took Jessica Lunsford from her home in Florida, lived just down the street. "He had an opportunity to stalk the family," Allen said. "He went in there for the child."

In the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart in Utah, her abductor was a handyman the family knew and took her from her bed at knifepoint. Nine months later, motorists spotted her as she walked with her captors.

Investigations have changed since the days the milk carton was the best way to disseminate photos of missing children, as the world was reminded last week when authorities in New York reopened the 1979 case of Etan Patz. The boy was 6 when he disappeared while making his first unescorted walk to the school bus.

Now groups can quickly disseminate photos on the Internet and to the media in the hopes that anyone who may have seen something will come forward with information.

And while social media has worked miracles in spreading the word when a child goes missing, such tools are also used by predators to stalk young people, Klaas said.

"At the end of the day, if some guy out of nowhere sneaks into a little girl's bedroom and steals her without leaving a fingerprint, we're in a world of hurt," Klaas said. "It's like pulling a needle out of a haystack."

BennettsFauxPas ‏@wotsbutlerdoing 1h

@Verity_2012 So many abductions & yet sinister/suspicious minded anti #mccann s cannot believe Madeleine was abducted? Oddballs IMO

verity ‏@Verity_2012 1h

@wotsbutlerdoing they have no idea about statistics. Probably think air crashes are conspiracies as car crashes more likely! #mccann


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Re: Experts: Child abductions at home relatively rare

Post by Olympicana_Reloaded on 07.05.13 10:09

Finding Isabel: one year later

Posted: Apr 19, 2013 1:52 AM GDT Updated: May 01, 2013 10:32 PM GDT

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

One year after Isabel's disappearance, a number of lingering questions remain: Is this case still an active one? Do authorities have any new or significant leads to go on? Is there really a chance this missing little girl is still alive?

Tucson Police continue to hold the investigation very close to the vest.

Though in this special report, we give you an inside look beyond the press releases and inside the very home Isabel Celis went missing.

While many people have only seen the house on television, what happened here one year ago is all too real.

Six-year-old Isabel Celis was taken from her own bedroom.

It happened sometime after 11 p.m. on Friday, April 20th.

That's when the little girl went to bed.

The next morning, when her father reportedly went to her room to wake her up, Isabel was gone.

"We unfortunately are not much different than we were six months ago."

Tucson Police chief Roberto Villsenor still believes Isabel was abducted.

But by whom and why, it's still unclear.

Based on documents released by Tucson Police, we know that blood samples were found in Isabel's room.

We also know about a shower cap and shower curtain with brownish stains on them were found nearby.

But when we asked Villasenor about these very things.

"No, we don't want to talk about those," Villasenor said, shaking his head.

Tucson Police Department's top cop would only say this, "We have good information. We have credible information we've followed up on, but not enough to take us to court on anything," he says.

Isabel's father Sergio Celis doesn't agree.

"I am completely appalled that this is where we are and this is how we're being treated throughout this whole investigation," Sergio says.

Isabel's parents, Sergio and Becky Celis have heard just about everything.

Rumors that they are somehow responsible for their daughter's disappearance.

And that Tucson Police focused on them, and only them, from the very beginning.

"We haven't ruled out anyone," says Chief Villasenor.

Through it all, they've stay committed to their faith and to each other. Becky says she'd do it all over again if only it brought her daughter back.

"And at the end, it's not even the fact that we're getting blown off," Becky says. "But my baby girl's not home yet. We need her home. She needs to be here with us."

Just like their other two children, boys ages 11 and 15, Sergio and Becky only speak of Isabel in present tense.

Her newly-decorated bedroom is the perfect case in point.

"As you walk in it's a completely, totally different room," Becky says.

From the purple walls with polka dots to the brand new dresser and bed, "It's all new. I can't wait for her to see it," Becky says. "I think she's gonna go crazy."

The idea is to show Isabel how much she's loved both by her family and the community.

Unopened presents line the bedroom walls, as do letters from children Isabel's never even met.

"What feelings go through you when you're in this room," we asked Becky.

"Hope. Because it's all new," she says. "It's a new room. Just the thought of when she walks into this new room and how excited she's going to be."

As for the investigation, TPD's spent nearly $1 million on the Celis case with two full-time detectives still reviewing information every day.

"When you run out of new leads or new information, you're obligated to go back and revisit what you have before," Villasenor says.

Statistically, Villasenor knows the chances of Isabel's safe return aren't very high.

But that doesn't change anything from an investigative point of view

Abducted children have resurfaced months, sometimes even years after being kidnapped.

That's why nobody connected to this case is even close to giving up hope.

"As a chief I'm a realist and the more time that goes on it makes me a little more cynical, but as parent I'm hopeful," Villasenor says.

Needless to say this investigation is still wide open. Which is why authorities are still looking for the slightest piece of evidence that could potentially crack this case. If you have any such information, you're encouraged to call 911 or 88-CRIME.

Prayer services for Isabel Celis will be held at 9 am Sunday, April 21st at St. Joseph Church, 215 S. Craycroft Rd.

A family event will follow that day at Peter Piper's Pizza near Park Place Mall, 5925 East Broadway.

A percentage of the proceeds from that event will go the find Isabel fund.


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