DES MOINES (AP) — Two high-profile kidnapping and homicide cases in Iowa have prompted state authorities change to how they issue Amber Alerts.
State officials announced Wednesday that the state's policy was changed so authorities need only a description of the child, the child's abductor or the abductor's vehicle. Before the change, the policy read that authorities needed a description of "the child, the child's abductor and/or the abductor's vehicle," leading some authorities to believe they needed both a description of the child and the suspect or suspect's vehicle to issue an alert.
The change drew praise from the mother of Elizabeth Collins, who disappeared from Evansdale, Iowa, along with her cousin, Lyric Cook, in July 2012. The two girls were found dead five months later.
Heather Collins said she had asked authorities several times to issue an Amber Alert for the girls but was told they could not because police did not have any suspect information.
"It's sad that it took something like this to happen for it to go through, but we're happy that it did," she said.
The change came a little more than two months after the May kidnapping of 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard and her 12-year-old friend in Dayton. The younger girl escaped, but Shepard was killed. Police believe Michael Klunder, who hanged himself before Kathlynn's body was found, abducted the girls.
Authorities were preparing an Amber Alert in that case when police found Klunder's body.
It's not the first time a high-profile kidnapping case has led a state to adjust its language regarding Amber Alerts, named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old Texas girl who was kidnapped and killed in 1996.
Nebraska's first policy governing Amber Alerts in 2002 capped the age requirement for victims at 15. But the highly publicized 2001 abduction of 17-year-old Kearney resident Anne Sluti led many to question the age cap of 15.
Anthony Steven Wright, of St. Paul, Minn., also known as Tony Zappa, was convicted of kidnapping Sluti at random from a mall parking lot and holding her captive for six days. He surrendered after a 10-hour standoff at a remote cabin near Rollins, Mont., and is serving life in prison. Sluti escaped alive.
By 2003 Nebraska officials had raised the minimum age for Amber Alerts to 17, citing surrounding states' policies and a U.S. Justice Department recommendation.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.