Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Amber Hagerman

Cleveland Case

Parents like Maitland puzzle over the inconsistencies of Amber Alerts.

In the Cleveland area, police agencies have proven willing to issue alerts that are outside the federal guidelines. From 2002 to 2004, more than half of the 17 alerts issued involved custodial abductions.

Yet when Gina DeJesus, 14, went missing in Cleveland in April 2004, police refused to issue an Amber Alert because there was no witness to her abduction or disappearance.

Gina DeJesus
Gina DeJesus

Later, two classmates revealed that they had seen the girl speaking with an older man earlier on the day that she disappeared. And it came to light that another teenager, Amanda Berry, had disappeared the previous spring just six blocks from where Gina DeJesus was last seen.

Amanda Berry
Amanda Berry

A year after the disappearance, authorities finally released a sketch of the man seen with DeJesus.

An FBI spokesman tried to explain the delay, but he was not convincing.

"This didn't look like a good lead at the time," he said. "It came in shortly after she was abducted. We didn't want people to lock into one person at that time. We had a lot of what we thought were really good leads. We covered those. They were unsuccessful."

Like Bruce Maitland, the girl's mother was left puzzling over judgments by law enforcers and the media when Gina DeJesus disappeared.

"We asked for an Amber Alert when we reported her missing that Friday night," Nancy Ruiz, 46, told Crime Library. "They told us we didn't meet the criteria because there was no description of a car or the person who abducted her."

Ruiz said she and Felix DeJesus, Gina's father, spent the next two days frantically looking for their child while begging the Cleveland media and police to release a photo of the girl.

"We got bounced back and forth," she said. "The police said the media had to make the decision to air her picture, and the media said they couldn't do it until the police gave the OK."

TV stations finally began airing Gina DeJesus' photo on Sunday broadcasts.

"They say every second counts when a girl is abducted, and for 36 hours we got nothing," Ruiz said. "Whoever took my daughter got a 36-hour leadand all because they wouldn't issue an Amber Alert. He could have had her all the way to Canada by time her picture was on TV."

Like Brianna Maitland, Gina DeJesus has not been found.

 

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