Mother of Kidnapped Girl Offers Support for Amber Alert

Mother of Kidnapped Girl Offers Support for Amber Alert

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Tonya Papanikolas reportingThe mother of a three-year-old girl kidnapped more than 20 years ago speaks out on behalf of the Amber Alert.

"It doesn't take away all the pain or anything like that, but it helps to know that you're making a difference," she says.

Elaine Runyon-Simmons knows what it's like to worry about her daughter and want to organize an effort to help find her.

Elaine's daughter was Rachel Runyon, who was kidnapped in 1982. Three weeks later, hikers found her body in the mountains.

Today the Amber Alert can help locate children like Rachel before it's too late.

The Amber Alert really coordinates an effort between the community, media and law enforcement, so everyone can be on the lookout for abducted children.

Here in Utah, officials test the system on Missing Children's Day in May, and on September 19th, a date that holds significance for the Runyon family.

It's been exactly 22 years since three-year-old Rachel Runyon's body was found in a creekbed after the little girl was kidnapped and killed. Despite the time that's passed, her mother still feels the pain.

Elaine Runyan-Simmons/ Daughter Kidnapped & Killed: "You always miss that child and you always wonder what they would have been like."

When Rachel was kidnapped, there was no Amber Alert system in place. Today her mother is involved with promoting the system.

Elaine Runyan-Simmons: "That's why I do it, so you don't have to go through this. And if we could have made it a different story or a different outcome, but I can't change what happened."

But Elaine knows she can change what is happening now. The Amber Alert system has helped find more than 150 children across the U.S., and six here in Utah.

The most recent Amber Alert success was a 14-year-old Indiana girl whom police spotted in July just outside of Wendover.

Twice each year, the Amber Alert is tested to make sure it works efficiently. Today the Woodscross police department sent out the test.

One minute and nine seconds later, cell phones and pagers around the state started receiving text messages about the alert. And KSL radio, which controls the emergency alert for all tv and radio stations across Utah, made the announcement on the air.

TV stations also cut into programming for the announcement. Rachel Runyon's mother says she's happy the memory of her daughter is helping spare other families her pain.

Elaine Runyon-Simmons: "She obviously had a very strong spirit and touched many, many people."

Elaine Runyon-Simmons: "I think we've saved a lot of lives because of her."

Here in Utah, the Amber Alert was originally named the Rachel Alert after Rachel Runyon. It was changed to avoid confusion across the country.

If this had been a real alert, you would have seen highway message boards posting information on the victim and suspect.

Police officers also receive alerts through their laptop computers and cell phones. And dispatch centers broadcast it to all officers through their car radios.

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