ALBEMARLE, N.C. — Family told Channel 9′s Genevieve Curtis that police waited more than 24 hours to issue an Amber Alert for a 3-year-old boy from Stanly County, despite their attempts to get it out sooner.
Jasper Creese was eventually found safe with his mother, but his grandmother told Curtis that could have happened much sooner.
Curtis obtained recordings of the 911 calls made by family members of Charity and Jasper Creese.
“I called last night and reported my daughter missing and I never heard anything back,” Wendy Cook said in one recording.
“I am very very worried,” she goes on to say.
Cook said Charity Creese is battling leukemia, and that doctors warned her treatment could cause personality changes. Cook said she was trying to get help for her daughter when she disappeared.
“She was not thinking very clearly,” Cook told Curtis. “She was thinking someone was after her, she was having some paranoia.”
Charity was last seen Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 7:30 a.m. Later that day, her phone was turned off and her car was gone.
“I said she gone, I know she gone, she not around here, I know she’s gone,” Cook said.
Her family says Charity has a fear of driving and wouldn’t have gone far.
At 3 p.m. that day, after hours of searching, Cook filed a missing persons report with Albemarle police. She explained her daughter was suffering a mental health crisis and that 3-year-old Jasper is nonverbal.
“They told me they would put a BOLO out, be on the lookout,” Cook told Curtis.
Charity’s husband also reported his wife and son missing. The family said what happened next was maddening.
“I had to just like practically just scream and holler for somebody to help,” Cook said. “And I wouldn’t want anybody else to have to go through that.”
Reports and 911 communications reviewed by Channel 9 show Charity’s family made four attempts to get help.
That Tuesday at 6:45 p.m., they called 911 to follow up. On Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 5:41 a.m., Cook called for a third time and was told Albemarle police would respond.
”I don’t know what else to do,” she said on that call.
“I’m going to have the sergeant that was working last night give you a call and see what was going on, I’m not really sure why you didn’t receive a phone call from the officer,” the dispatcher told her.
On Wednesday at 8:45 a.m., the family went to the sheriffs’ office, but they were told it was Albemarle police’s jurisdiction and an officer would contact them.
But word quickly spread after Charity’s cousin posted on Facebook about their search. At 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, a detective with the Stanly County Sheriff’s Office called Cook.
“She said I promise you, we are going to get something done,” Cook said.
“It meant everything because I knew my daughter and my grandbaby would get found,” she added, crying.
By 4:45 p.m., the Amber Alert for Charity and Jasper was issued. Less than three hours later -- at 7:30 p.m. -- the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department found Charity and Jasper at a Circle K on Freedom Drive in Charlotte. Cook was reunited with her grandson.
“He just latched on to me, I could tell he was in shock,” she said, crying.
It was only after they were found that Cook’s family learned the search could have ended much sooner. Police reports show a security guard at a Charlotte parking garage noticed something unusual and reported Charity’s car at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday -- the same day she disappeared.
A few hours later, at 1 a.m. Wednesday, CMPD officers made contact with Charity at a South End parking lot. She and Jasper were asleep in the backseat. But at the time, there was no Amber Alert or BOLO for them.
“If that BOLO would have actually been put in place, none of this other stuff would have happened,” Cook said. “They would have been able to help.”
Federal law requires juveniles be entered into the NCIC database within two hours of a missing report being made. A police report says it took 24 hours from Cook’s first report to Albemarle police before that happened.
Cook said Jasper is doing well and Charity is getting the help and support she needs. But the feeling of what could have happened still hasn’t left her.
“A few more days and a few more hours of them being out there, who knows what could have happened?” she said.
Albemarle police chief Jason Bollhorst told Curtis the Albemarle Police Department administration is reviewing the actions and circumstances involving this case. He said they have reached out to the Creese family to address any concerns they may have.
The North Carolina Center for Missing People told Curtis the State Bureau of Investigation looks into compliance issues, like reporting missing children into the NCIC. The SBI said at this point, it has not been asked to investigate.
Read the full statement from the Albemarle Police Department below:
“On Tuesday, October 17, Charity Walters Creese and Jasper O’Ryan Creese were reported missing by Ms. Creese’s spouse. The Albemarle Police Department immediately took steps to locate them. The officer who received the report in this case immediately began an investigation.
“Charity Walters Creese and Jasper O’Ryan Creese were found unharmed on Wednesday, October 18. The Albemarle Police Department contacted the Creese family to address any concerns they may have.
“The Albemarle Police Department Administration is reviewing the actions and circumstances involving this case.”
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