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John Daley ReportingA custody dispute boils over and a seven-year old Northern Utah girl is missing tonight, after the girl's father checks her out of school and takes off, apparently to Texas. The father unexpectedly checked her out of school Friday, and apparently left the state with girl.
This story raises a series of questions, including why was no Amber Alert issued? And how should administrators deal with a custody dispute when it suddenly boils over at school?
Friday, mid-morning, 7-year-old Addison Pruitt is just finishing her last, busy day of first grade when her father Derrill arrives unannounced at her school to take her with him. Addison's parents are divorced. Jonna Comstock, a friend of the girl's mother, called the mom who was frantic, and Jonna tried to intervene.
Jonna Comstock, PTA President, Friend of Mother: "I was told there was nothing we can do. We really didn't have the right paperwork in Addison's file."
In just a few minutes Addison and her dad were gone. The town's police chief was called and began investigating. Derrill Pruitt apparently went to Salt Lake and flew to Phoenix en route to Texas. Now, five days later, Addison's mother Karen hasn't heard from the girl and she's worried.
Karen Hurd and Pruitt, who lives outside Houston, share joint custody of Addison. She mostly lives in Utah, but occasionally travels to Texas. But the parents are at odds over visitation and child support. Still, Hurd wonders why no Amber Alert was issued.
Karen Hurd: "That's what the Amber Alert is there for, is to protect kids. Addison can't protect herself. That's what it's there for. It was one phone call to someone in law enforcement to say hey, we need to question this guy. But should never have gotten out of the school parking lot."
Paul Murphy, Spokesman, Utah Attorney General's Office: "Is there evidence that the child has been kidnapped? Is there evidence the child is in imminent danger? In this case, police didn't feel like they had that, so it didn't fit the criteria for an Amber Alert."
The superintendent says school officials followed proper policy.
Superintendent Martell: "We want to make sure student's are safe. We talk a lot about safety and making sure students are safe at school. And trying to balance that safety issue with having access to parents so they can come in and be part of what's happening is something we'll have to address and work through."
Addison's mother says she doesn't think the father would harm the girl, but...
Karen Hurd: "She's seven. I mean, Ididn't say goodbye. She didn't have a bag, she didn't know she was going."
Karen says she has not heard from the girl or the father sine they took off on Friday. Calls we placed to Derrill Pruitt's home, office, and pager in Texas have not been returned.