An Amber Alert issued after an infant girl was reported abducted has ended with the child being found safe and her father facing charges. But some are questioning whether the alert system in this case was misused.
State police in Bedford, Pa., had issued an Amber Alert on Sunday for 11-month-old Sabrina Gwen Cleveland, after she had been reported abducted by her father, Ernest Cleveland. Police said Cleveland, 24, took Sabrina at gunpoint from the Imler, Pa., home where she was staying with her mother, Karen Montgomery.
After the alert was issued, the police contacted law enforcement officials in Connecticut, where Cleveland lives. State police then set up surveillance at Cleveland's apartment in Putnam, Conn. After they saw him come home with his daughter early Monday morning, Cleveland surrendered to authorities following brief negotiations. Sabrina, officials said, was unharmed.
But now Cleveland's attorney is arguing the Amber Alert system was abused and that his client acted out of concern for his daughter.
Defense lawyer Mark Shapera said Cleveland had primary custody of Sabrina and that the child's mother violated a custodial agreement by taking her out of state. Cleveland had filed a motion of contempt against Montgomery and contacted Pennsylvania police but received no help from officials, Shapera maintained.
"The Pennsylvania police should have done more to check out the background [of Cleveland]," Shapera told ABC News affiliate WTNH in New Haven, Conn.
No Regrets From Father
Cleveland insists he was saving Sabrina from a dangerous situation and did not regret taking his daughter. He told WTNH that Montgomery is "a violent person." A Cleveland family friend added, "I think he should get his daughter back, and she [Montgomery] should get in trouble, too. She left the state with her."
But Pennsylvania police say they responded appropriately to the Amber Alert and that Cleveland should not have taken matters into his own hands.
Sabrina will stay with Cleveland's family, who will be monitored by the State Department of Children and Families. Meanwhile, Cleveland, who was held on $250,000 bond, must return to Pennsylvania to face charges for gun possession and for allegedly taking his daughter at gunpoint.
The Amber Alert system — named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and killed in Arlington, Texas — uses a state's emergency notification system to give broadcasters a description of a missing child and of a suspect's vehicle. It is used in 47 states. Reported by ABC News affiliate WTNH in New Haven, Connecticut.