AMBER ALERTS

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You probably heard about the Amber Alert issued last Friday after a six-year-old girl was kidnapped from her home in the town of Maricopa in the outskirts of Phoenix. In any child abduction, time is ALWAYS of the essence because according to law enforcement experts, children who are taken by a stranger are usually harmed or killed within the first three hours. Time was certainly of the essence in Friday's Amber Alert...the suspect...a convicted sex offender.

As investigators with the Pinal County Sheriff's office began to release more details, the situation became more and more disturbing. According to reports, the suspect, 26 year-old George Horner, had been living with the little girl and her mother for about three weeks. The mother, Glenna Alvarez, reportedly told detectives she met him through a friend and had no idea he was a registered sex offender, had she known that, she told reporters, she never would have allowed him in her home. That morning of January 26, mom went to work and apparently asked Horner if he could take her daughter to school...the little girl never made it to school. A good samaritan found the child about four hours later walking alone, along a road in Casa Grande. She was taken to a hospital and later investigators said she had been sexually assaulted.

This is still an ongoing investigation. Mr. Horner is in jail in Pinal County. He says he is innocent. In 2004 he was convicted in Pinal County of sexual misconduct with a minor--the victim was a 17 year old girl. Authorities say he failed to register as a sex offender in Pinal County but that it could have been because that same year he moved to Louisiana where he did comply with the law by registering with authorities in that state. We shall see how what happens once he gets his day in court, let's not forget that this is America and Mr. Horner is innocent until proven guilty.

As this case continues, I can't help but feel an incredible sadness for this littIe girl. I can't for the life of me understand how this happens so often here in our community, actually across the country. We have covered so many cases where children get badly hurt or killed because they were left with mom's boyfriend or dad's girlfriend or in this case with mom's friend. Investigators are still looking into the mother's side of the story. Again, she says she never knew that Mr. Horner was a registered sex offender but authorities aren't so sure. Let's leave that part of the investigation to law enforcement.

This is a case we can all learn from--whether you're a parent or a caretaker, the bottom line is: Don't leave your children with someone that you hardly know. That's the message Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez wants to emphasize. Whether you know a person's background or not is not the point, the point is when it comes to our children we should never leave them in the care of a stranger. In this case, it appears the girl's mother met Horner through a friend about three weeks ago. Sometimes we can't trust someone we've known our entire lives let alone for less than a month.

The little girl was taken away from her mother by Child Protective Services and placed in the custody of her father.

Let's keep that little angel in our thoughts. I hope her story prevents this from happening to another child but realistically speaking...

Claudia Rivero
claudia_rivero@azfamily.com