Recent Abductions Prompt Iowa AMBER Alert Change

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By Adam Carros

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- In the wake of several high-profile abductions, Iowa announced small but important changes to its AMBER alert protocol.

The Iowa AMBER Alert Criteria Group took out the word "and" from the criteria for issuing an alert. Police now need "descriptive information about the child, abductor or suspect's vehicle" to issue an alert.

That descriptive information is one of four criteria needed for an AMBER Alert. Police also need to confirm a child was abducted, the person is under age 18 and have evidence the child is in physical danger.

The group also urged law enforcement to use a broad interpretation of the rules to issue more alerts and faster.

The change follows two high-profile abductions in Iowa where no Amber Alert was issued.

This past May, Michael Klunder abducted Kathlynn Shepard in central Iowa. In that case, the Department of Public Safety was preparing to issue an AMBER Alert when police found Klunder had killed himself in his home. Shepard's body was found a few weeks later in the Des Moines River.

The other high-profile case was the abduction of Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins in July of 2012. In that case, police were not sure the two cousins had been abducted. Police searched and drained Meyers Lake in Evansdale, believing the two girls may have been in the lake. Hunters found the girls' bodies in December in a park in Bremer County, about 20 miles away from Meyers Lake.

Earlier this month, the Benton County Sheriff's Office issued the most recent AMBER Alert in Iowa. Investigators say Sean Shannon took his daughter without her mother's consent. The girl was found safe in Cedar Rapids a few hours later.

That was the 19th AMBER Alert issued since 2003, according to the Iowa AMBER Alert website. Of those cases, 10 year-old Jetseta Gage is the only child not recovered safely. The Cedar Rapids girl was kidnapped and killed by Roger Bentley in March of 2005.

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