Why wasn't an Amber Alert issued for Vanesa Ochoa?

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Three children taken by their father earlier this month are still missing. An Amber Alert is in effect for them. So why wasn't an Amber Alert issued for Vanesa Ochoa?

In the case of the three children who lived in West Valley City, their father had an abusive past. Almost a month later, there's still no sign of them, and police say they have no leads. West Valley City police Lt. Bill Merritt says, "We've used a lot of man hours and a lot of different people on this particular case."

Why wasn't an Amber Alert issued for Vanesa Ochoa?

Police believe 6-year-old Alicia Hernandez, her 4-year-old brother Pablo and their 3-year-old half sister, Xiomara, are no longer in the country. Merritt says, "We're under the impression the father has taken the children to Mexico. He made statements that he was going to do that."

The children were living with their aunt, who has custody. But the she allowed their father, Israel Hernandez, and his girlfriend, Martha Torres, to take the children on short visits. On their last visit, they never came back.

Why wasn't an Amber Alert issued for Vanesa Ochoa?

In this past interview, the aunt made an emotional plea. She said, "I need to know where they are and if they're OK."

Police issued an Amber Alert because Hernandez was physically abusive. Today, that Amber Alert is still in effect. Merritt says, "It's there because it's just one more tool to locate the children and father should they return to the states."

In baby Vanesa's case, police issued an Endangered Person Advisory, which is similar to the Amber Alert.

Why wasn't an Amber Alert issued for Vanesa Ochoa?

Paul Murphy, with the Utah Attorney General's Office, says police didn't trigger an Amber Alert, in part, because there isn't enough evidence to indicate a kidnapping or imminent danger to the baby. He says, either way, heavy media attention can be most important for a good outcome. He says, "The same thing applies. We want the public to be out there looking for this mother and for this child and make sure this child comes home safely."

West Valley police want the same for the three children. They say they've exhausted all leads, and the tips have slowly stopped coming in. But investigators don't want the public to forget them. Merritt says, "We're very concerned for the welfare and safety of the children, and we've done absolutely everything we can think of to get them back." This is the state's only unresolved Amber Alert.

Police couldn't say how long the Amber Alert will be in effect for these three children. You may recall it was in effect for nine months when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped.

E-mail: syi@ksl.com

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Sandra Yi


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