MOBILE, Al (WKRG) — The recent disappearance and murder of 12-year-old Naomi Jones hits close to home for many who remember the murder of Hiawayi Robinson, the eight-year-old from Prichard who was raped and killed after disappearing from her family’s apartment in September 2014.
While the circumstances of the two girls’ deaths are not related, the search efforts to find them are similar in the fact that neither disappearance met the required criteria to issue an Amber Alert that typically includes a suspect’s name, vehicle description, etc.
In the wake of Robinson’s death, Alabama lawmakers passed an alert system law that requires law enforcement agencies to publicize every time a child goes missing, even if details are limited.
“Our best ally is the public, as far as getting information back to us,” Mobile County Sheriff’s Sergeant Joe Mahoney. “That was the whole point of this law. Sharing information with the public, and asking their assistance to get that information back to us.”
With the now two-year-old law having few limitations, the worry is that the public might begin to take missing child alerts less seriously if their social media feeds are constantly flooded with them. For now, though, Mahoney says the added exposure for missing children is helping solve several of their cases. Mahoney says it also has become a deterrent for children considering running away from home because the consequences are much greater, since they have to report every missing child case that comes into their office.
For now, it’s unclear if any legislative changes in Florida will be made in the wake of Jones’ murder.