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AMBER Alert issued for Flathead County girl

The Montana Department of Justice has issued an AMBER Alert for 12-year old Rhiannon Epona-Renee McGuire. She is 5 foot 2, 85 pounds, with brown shoulder length hair, brown eyes.

The AMBER Alert states that Rhiannon was abducted by her non-custodial mother Michelle Ferguson, who is 5 foot 6, 145 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. They are possibly in a white 2002 Chevrolet Tracker (Montana license 734286B).

Ferguson is said to be bi-polar, manic depressive, and off her medication. The child’s life is believed to be in “life-threatening danger.” Anyone who sees them or has information is asked to call the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office at 406-758-5610 or 911.

(UPDATE, 2:21 pm) The AMBER Alert has been canceled – the child is safe, the mother is in custody. No other details have been released.

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said in a Facebook post: “I have been advised that the missing child identified in the recent Amber Alert has been located and is fine. The suspect was taken into custody. The investigation continues and when we have more information we will notify you.”

Whenever a child is reported missing in Montana, law enforcement agencies work quickly to determine the circumstances, and whether or not to issue an AMBER Alert, or a Missing/Endangered Person Advisory (MEPA).

The AMBER Alert program started in Texas in 1996 after 9-year old Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered. In response to community concern, broadcasters in the area teamed up with law enforcement agencies to establish a program capable of quickly distributing information about child abductions to the general public. In memory of Amber, the program was called the AMBER Plan—America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.

In Montana, officials also have the option of issuing a Missing/Endangered Person Advisory.

Here is the difference between the two:

AMBER ALERT

To initiate an AMBER Alert, call 9-1-1 and provide your local law enforcement agency with all the information you can about a suspected child abduction. To activate the program, all of the following criteria must be met:

  • There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that a child has been abducted or has disappeared under suspicious circumstances.
  • The missing child is age 17 years or younger, or has a proven mental or physical disability.
  • The law enforcement agency believes the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
  • The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer.

The AMBER Alert system is not used to track runaways, missing children or children involved in custody disputes. The program is restricted to child abduction cases that could be life threatening.

MISSING/ENDANGERED PERSON ADVISORY

A MEPA Advisory is initiated solely by Montana law enforcement agencies using the following criteria:

  1. Do the circumstances fail to meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert?
  2. Is the person missing under unexplained, involuntary or suspicious circumstances?
  3. Is the person believed to be in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, or environmental or weather conditions; to be in the company of a potentially dangerous person; or is there some other factor that may put the person in peril?
  4. Is there information that could assist the public in the safe recovery of the missing person? The initial advisory will include any available information, like name, age, physical description, date of birth and where the person was last seen. It might also include information about whether the person has a health condition or physical or mental disability.

Click here to read more at the MT DOJ website.

David Sherman

David Sherman

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