Non-family kidnappings rare, AMBER Alert crucial to solving them

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - According to the FBI Missing Person’s records, non-family child abductions are rare in the United States, occurring in about 12 percent of cases. But one Overland Park family is working to reduce that statistic.

Missy Smith experienced what a little more than 100 other families around the nation have. For her, hearing the news about 10-year-old Hailey Owen’s kidnapping and murder hits close to home.

“It’s gut-wrenching every time you see a story like this on the news,” she said, “it takes you right back."

In 2007, her 18-year-old daughter was leaving the Target in Overland Park when she was forced into a car and kidnapped. Like in Hailey Owen’s case, police can’t link Kelsey Smith to her abductor.

"Her family has now started down a journey that no family wants to do,” Smith said.

Her daughter’s body was found four days later.

"Not in the way we had hoped,” she said, “but she’s home and I don’t have to wonder where she’s at."

Police say the first three hours are crucial in a missing person’s case.

They suggest parents make a kit including their child’s picture, a toothbrush, a Styrofoam cup with teeth marks and even a brush with hair to help them solve the case.

“As soon as that's handed off to the police officer, it doesn’t take us very long to compile the information we need and to get approval in order to issue an AMBER Alert," Lt. Kelli Bailiff from the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Department said.

Bailiff has helped solve more than 500 non family missing child cases. In Hailey Owen’s case, Bailiff said the witnesses and social media made a big difference.

“Those are key things,” she said, “we’re not always that fortunate."

Missy Smith has since helped pass a law to help police track down missing persons. The Kelsey Smith Act give lets police track a missing person’s wireless device through their phone company. The Act has been passed in 14 states including Kansas and Missouri.

Smith is currently working on helping it get passed in Oregon. She knows of a handful of people who have been found because of the law.

“It brings meaning to Kelsey’s death,” she said, “to know that there are other lives that have been saved because she wasn’t.”

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