The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, May 02, 2003  

Some Oddities in the Missing Girl Case

[Ed.: Most of this post was written yesterday, Thursday, May 1, but it was not completed until today. So if it seems out of order on the blog, that's the reason.]

For those following the case, Thursday's Savannah Morning News has a brief article about Ashleigh Moore, the 12-year-old honor student missing since April 18.

You can find the article on the SMN's web site. No, not on the home page. To find it, look on the home page, about halfway down, for the section "Local Headlines," where you will find five stories, including one about an FBI agent celebrating 50 years on the job.

No "Local Headlines" about Ashleigh Moore. Keep looking. You'll have to click on the even smaller link, "More Local Stories," which takes you to a page where the update on the Moore case is the eighth story. [Ed.: Note that those paragraphs were written with respect to yesterday's edition, but I'm trying to make a point, one I think is fairly obvious.]

Some excerpts:

Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents said no Amber Alert went out for missing 12-year-old Ashleigh Moore -- contrary to what Savannah police initially reported.

Last week, Police Chief Dan Flynn said that such an alert -- known as Levi's Call in Georgia -- was issued, even though no evidence indicated Ashleigh was taken out of the local area.

She vanished April 18. Investigators suspect foul play, but no one has been charged….

Police can activate Levi's Call only by asking the GBI. GBI spokesman John Bankhead said police asked the GBI to issue the alert on April 21, three days after Ashleigh was reported missing. [Emphasis added.]

"It didn't meet the parameters for Levi's Call," Bankhead said. "It was designed for activation soon after the child is abducted, to get the word out. But days afterward doesn't meet the parameters."

If police had contacted GBI the day Ashleigh was reported missing, the alert likely would have been issued, Bankhead said.

Savannah police at first thought she might have run away and didn't notify local media about her until two days after she was reported missing….

"Ashleigh's case doesn't fit the profile. Levi's Call/Amber Alert is for abducted children," Burnsed said. "To qualify, you have to have a suspect description, to be able to tell everyone[,] "Stop what you are doing, we're looking for this car, this person this tag number etc."

But a few days after she disappeared, police said they suspected foul play, and her status at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was changed to "lost, injured or otherwise missing."

Police eventually tried to have the statewide alert system issued for her to give the case more exposure, Burnsed said.

But GBI said they were too late.

This case is one sorry mess.

"Savannah police at first though she might have run away and didn't notify local media about her until two days after she was reported missing." Based on what information was this conclusion reached?

Ashleigh Moore is an honor student -- not the typical runaway, I would think. And she cannot see without her glasses: her primary set was found in her bedroom and her only spare set was found at a relative's house. I'm no Dick Tracy, but something doesn't sound right here. I mean, if Ashleigh Moore is even half as near-sighted as I am, she can't cross the street without her glasses. Did the Savannah police think she was going to set up an optometrist's appointment -- and pay in cash -- while on the lamb?

And we also learn that in Georgia at least, and I can only wonder where else, that when the police consider a child to "missing," based on what by my reading seems a rather cavalier determination in this case, rather than "abducted," an Amber Alert (or, in Georgia, a Levi's call) cannot be issued. Then, if, two days later, the police suspect homicide -- little information has been released about this decision -- she gets no attention at all, hers just another homicide.

But aren't those first days the most critical when a child is either missing or abducted?

I'd be intereseted in seeing statistics on the number of 12-year-olds who run away. Isn't that more of a 15-, 16-year-old kids' thing? And how many 12-year-old honor students? And how many 12-year-old honor students that the SMN's coverage has revealed have a loving and supportive extended family? It's clear from the SMN that Ashleigh's aunt, grandmother, and great-grandmother all have close relationships with the child. That doesn't sound to me like the set-up of a 12-year-old who has no one to go.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm just hyperventilating, but I think someone really dropped the ball on this one.

(Does the fact that Miss Moore's disappearance was reported on a Friday mean anything? I've never worked in law enforcement, so I would ask: Are police departments as fully staffed on weekends as they are on weekdays?)

And, okay, even if Ashleigh doesn't meet the technical requirements necessary for the issuance of an Amber Alert or a Levi's Call, and even if there is associated with this case an apparently questionable character by the name of Bobby Bruckner, why is her disappearance being treated almost as a non-event?

There is nothing, repeat, nothing, in this case that justifies the nearly complete silence of the newspapers in Georgia (outside of Savannah) and surrounding areas, including the southern portion of South Carolina and northern Florida, along with the national media, all of which are too busy fawning over President George Bush's disgracefully cynical Pacific Ocean photo opportunity to bother with a black girl from a single-parent family whose mother may have made an unfortunate choice in choosing her boyfriend.

A reader writes to tell me "It's different," that it's different because of Bruckner [See: "Ashleigh Moore Update," below.], implying the police have every reason to suspect Bruckner and there's no cause for alarm.

I don't think so. The handyman at the Smart residence was pretty sketchy, as was the Van Damms' creepy neighbor. Maybe Bruckner is involved, but until more is known, it's fair to no one, not to Bruckner, nor least of all to Ashleigh Moore to assume otherwise.

Something's not right here. Until we find out what that is, let's all hope and/or pray for the best.

[Post-publication addendum: The Moore case finally made it into the pages of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Today. Near as I can tell there is nothing yet in the Charleston (S.C.) Post & Courier. Nor in the Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville, Fla. The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, to its credit, has published at least one article about Miss Moore, as far back as April 26.]

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