AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Texas adults believed to be kidnapped or missing have not been eligible for emergency broadcasts akin to Amber Alerts, but that soon will change.
Governor Greg Abbott signed a mandate Saturday unanimously approved by both chambers of the state Legislature, that concludes one mother’s nearly yearlong effort to deter kidnappings like the one that ended in her daughter’s alleged murder.
With the new system in place, law enforcement authorities will be able to broadcast roadside and text alerts when Texans between the ages of 18 and 65 are believed to have been taken or otherwise endangered.
Alison Steele’s daughter Cayley Mandadi was a sophomore at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas when she was killed in late October 2017. Authorities have charged Mark Howerton, 23, with murder and aggravated sexual assault; he awaits trial.
When friends reported Mandadi as missing, they were able to describe the suspect, his vehicle and location to law enforcement officials. But because Mandadi was 19 years old at the time, the state could not issue an Amber Alert with this information.
House Bill 1769 fills this gap in the emergency response tools available to authorities. Though its final branding, design and implementation will be up to state agencies, Steele unofficially refers to the alerts as “CALE Alerts” — an acronym for Civilian Abduction or Life Endangerment as well as an allusion to one of Cayley’s old nicknames.
“I hope you will join me in passing this bill in honor of the ones we could not save,” said Senator Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, in his address to the Senate floor just before the assembly unanimously approved it.
Greg Bonnen, R-Galveston and author of the bill, stood behind Taylor as the latter addressed the Senate. Exactly three months had passed since Bonnen filed the bill in the Texas House of Representatives, where it passed with no amendments, debate or dissent, 139-0, on April 26.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, acknowledged Steele’s efforts after the vote.
“And for the family, we are so sorry for your loss, that you had to be here,” Patrick said. “But our members of the House and the Senate want to prevent this from happening again.”
With the passage of HB 1769, Texas joins Virginia as the two states with an alert system for any missing adult between the ages of 18 and 65; other states have implemented missing-persons alerts with broader criteria, typically with reference to age or mental capacity.