MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook says an AMBER Alert was not issued for 11-year-old Jessica Williams Tuesday night because investigators were working to gather concrete information before notifying the public.
"When it's definitely found that a child or someone like that's missing, then we put out a general BOLO (be on the lookout). In this case it went out to general law enforcement in Northeast Arkansas," he said.
He says it is his policy to alert local officers before requesting Arkansas State Police to activate an AMBER Alert. He says dispatch sent out a BOLO for Jessica Williams at 11:16 Tuesday night after her father Eric reported her missing around 9 p.m.
"Ms. Williams became missing somewhere between 6:30 and 7 p.m.," he said. "Approximately three hours after he found her missing that's when he notified the police."
The Mississippi County Sheriff's Department and Blytheville Emergency Rescue Squad immediately began a search for Jessica after they were notified, according to Sheriff Cook.
Some of the Department of Justice criteria recommendations for activating an AMBER Alert include:
•reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred, and
•belief that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
Sheriff Cook says those elements were not in place Tuesday night, but had the search not ended with officers finding Jessica's remains Wednesday morning, an AMBER Alert would have been issued.
"The way it progressed, there would have been an AMBER Alert that went out if we hadn't found the body."
Investigators are conducting interviews and looking for more information concerning Jessica's whereabouts Tuesday evening.
Sheriff Cook says Eric's account of Jessica's disappearance is "concerning."
"Two things that are a little concerning to me is the time lapse between when Mr. Williams noticed his daughter was missing until he notified the authorities or the sheriff's department, number one. Number two is the distance between the residence where the bicycle was found and where the body was found."
Anyone with information about the investigation can call the Mississippi County Sheriff's Department at (870) 762-2243.