OJP DOJ Press Release letterhead

Office of Justice Program
Contact: Catherine Sanders


     WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General John Ashcroft today marked National Missing Children's Day by honoring law enforcement and citizens from around the country for their unprecedented cooperation in the recovery of missing and exploited children.

     In a Department of Justice ceremony, the Attorney General also noted that two years ago, only nine statewide AMBER Alert plans existed, and that today, the 48 contiguous states all have plans in operation to assist in the recovery of abducted children. To date, 134 children have been recovered because of the AMBER Alert and a full three-quarters of these successful recoveries of abducted children have occurred since the first White House Conference on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children in October 2002, when the AMBER Alert became a coordinated national effort.

     "When a young child is taken by the violent and predatory, we cannot stand idle. We demand accountability. We demand justice," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "Today is a day to remember those who are gone, but whose imprint on our lives is still felt. It is a day to reflect on our calling as a free people to forge a nation that protects the lives of the most vulnerable."

     The Attorney General presented awards honoring law enforcement and citizens, including two new awards in the area of AMBER Alerts. The first AMBER Alert Citizen Award went to Al Joy and Jason Roden, two employees in a Chattanooga, Tennessee restaurant who saved three children from being abducted by a suspected murderer. The second new award, the AMBER and Missing Children's Media Award, went to John Walsh on behalf of the television program, America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back, for its efforts to recover missing children over the years.

     "The stunning success of the AMBER Alert is directly related to the unprecedented cooperation of alert citizens and the media with local law enforcement," said Deborah J. Daniels, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs, who also serves as the National AMBER Alert Coordinator. "With 90 children recovered in the last year alone, and with statewide AMBER Alert plans throughout the 48 contiguous states, communities are poised to act quickly when a child is abducted. Today, we are proud to honor those whose efforts have helped make America safer for our children."

     AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alerts are emergency messages that are broadcast when law enforcement determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. The broadcasts include information about the child and the abductor, such as physical descriptions, as well as information about the abductor's vehicle, which could lead to the child's recovery and the apprehension of the suspect. See AMBER Alert National Strategy Progress Report (available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/amberalert.)

     The Officer of the Year Award for Missing and Exploited Children was awarded to U.S. Postal Inspector Steven Sadowitz and Senior Special Agent Perry Woo, from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Sadowitz and Woo investigated a child sex tourism and prostitution ring which led to the arrest of the alleged ringleader and eight child molesters and pornographers. Thirty Mexican children, some as young as eight-years- old, were rescued due to the efforts of the two officers.

     Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted from her Salt Lake City home, received the National Courage Award for bravely telling law enforcement of her true identity, when her captors were nearby. The Gayter family from Falls Church,VA whose 9-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted by a camp counselor, received the National Volunteer Award. The Gayters used their own advertising business to promote the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's role in helping sexually exploited children and their families. America Online received the National Corporate Award for its efforts to ensure that children and families have safe experiences online.

     Additional awards were given to officers for the rescue of a 16-year-old girl in New York state who had been missing for six months and was being held against her will.

     Also honored were officers involved in the recovery of a 14-year-old Michigan girl, the return to his mother of a 20 -year-old man who had been abducted when he was six-weeks-old, and the arrest of alleged child pornographers from California and Connecticut.

     J. Robert Flores, Administrator for the Office of Justice Programs' Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), presented the first place award in the 5th Annual Missing Children's Day Art Contest to Harris Elizabeth Fyfe, a fifth-grade student from Grahamwood Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee. Her work, selected from more than 200 entries, was displayed at the ceremony and will be featured in missing children-related publications and conferences.

     OJJDP updated three publications, distributed at the event, to aid in the recovery of missing and exploited children: Investigative Checklist for First Responders, Federal Resources for Missing and Exploited Children: A Directory for Law Enforcement and other Public and Private Agencies and When Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide.

     OJP provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist crime victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises five component bureaus and two offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education, and the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed program.

See attached document for list of award winners.



2004 National Missing and Exploited Children's Awards


Award Recipient: Postal Inspector Steven Sadowitz, Indianapolis, IN
Award Recipient: Senior Special Agent Perry Woo, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Fairfax, VA

Case: Search and arrest of Timothy Julian

     In 2003, Postal Inspector Steven Sadowitz and Senior Special Agent Perry Woo of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) identified 48-year-old Timothy Julian of Dyer, Indiana, as the mastermind behind a child sex tourism and prostitution ring. Julian was arrested along with seven others on charges of conspiracy to molest children. As a result of their investigation, eight alleged child molesters and child pornographers were arrested, 11 United States nationals were arrested, and more than 30 Mexican children, as young as eight-years-old, were rescued. Today, Julian faces up to 25 years in federal prison.



Award Recipient: Al Joy, Cleveland, TN
Award Recipient: Jason Roden, Rising Fawn, GA

Case: Identification of vehicle in Georgia AMBER Alert

     Al Joy and Jason Roden, servers at a Red Lobster restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee were returning from a trip to Florida on January 8, 2004 when they saw AMBER Alert signs in Georgia about a vehicle containing three children who had been abducted earlier that day. The abductor was a suspect in the murder of the children's grandparents, another one of his children and a fourth family member. About 15 miles outside of Chattanooga, the two Red Lobster crew members, along with Joy's wife and Roden's girlfriend, noticed a car they were passing fit the AMBER Alert description. They called 911 on a cell phone and discovered it was the car for which police were searching. State troopers made the arrest and freed the children. This isn't the first time Roden had played the role of hero. A few months ago, while working in the restaurant, he saved the life of a choking customer by performing the Heimlich maneuver.

     Because they responded quickly to an AMBER Alert, Joy and Roden saved children from being abducted by a suspected murderer. For their efforts, they are being honored with the first-ever AMBER Alert Citizen Award.



Award Recipient: John Walsh, on behalf of America's Most Wanted television program

     After the abduction and murder of their son Adam in 1981, John Walsh and his wife Revé have worked tirelessly to help missing and exploited children. America's Most Wanted has led to almost 800 arrests. John and Revé Walsh lobbied to help pass the Missing Children Act of 1982 and the Missing Children's Assistance Act of 1984 which founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Walsh served as NCMEC's first director and now serves on the board of directors of NCMEC.

     John Walsh's production company, Straight Shooter Productions, in its first year, syndicated Manhunter in 45 countries and created the syndicated America's Most Wanted: Final Justice here in the United States. John Walsh is accepting the AMBER and Missing Children's Media Award on behalf of America's Most Wanted, for its efforts to bring attention to the abduction and recovery of missing children over the years.



Award Recipient: Officer Elizabeth Butler, Manlius, (NY) Police Department
Award Recipient: Sergeant Richard Woolley, Onondaga (NY) County Sheriff's Office

Case: Search and arrest of John Jamelske

     On Tuesday, April 8, 2003, Officer Elizabeth Butler with the Manlius Police Department received a broadcast from a 911 Emergency Center, indicating that a customer might be holding a young girl against her will. After interviewing the store's owner, Officer Butler discovered that a sixteen-year-old female, Frencheska Bradford, missing for approximately six months, had entered the bottle redemption center accompanied by an older male. The girl, pretending to call a church, had actually called her sister, Angela, who reported the crime. While interviewing the sister, another call came in from the victim, who was able to describe her surroundings. Just 14 minutes later, the young teen was safely rescued. Officer Butler arrested 68-year-old John Jamelske for kidnapping, sexual abuse of a minor, and a series of other charges. Sgt. Richard Woolley, with the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department, then launched a full-scale investigation and discovered that Jamelske had abducted six females over a span of fifteen years and had held each in captivity for up to three years. On April 29, 2003, Jamelske was indicted on five counts of kidnapping and on July 16, 2003, was sentenced to 18 years to life.

Award Recipient: Captain Lyndon Parrish, Cass County (MI) Sheriff's Office
Award Recipient: Special Agent Roy Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, St. Joseph, MI
Award Recipient: Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan E. Meyer, U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney's Office-Western Michigan

Case: Search and Recovery of Lindsey Ryan

     On March 1, 2003, fourteen-year-old Lindsey Ryan disappeared from her home in Jones, Michigan with 54-year-old Terry Drake. Captain Lyndon Parrish with the Cass County Sheriff's Office directed the investigation and was assisted by FBI Special Agent Roy Johnson. Working simultaneously, Captain Parrish activated a Joint Operations Center whereby AMBER Alerts were issued in Michigan and California, and Special Agent Johnson organized national fugitive searches with the assistance of law enforcement agencies spanning ten states. Special Agent Johnson then discovered that Drake had purchased camping gear and obtained a surveillance photo of Drake's pick-up truck. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan Meyer authorized an Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution warrant for Drake. On March 24, 2003, despite the fact that the truck had been painted, a Frito-Lay truck driver recognized the Indiana license tag and bumper sticker. Lindsey was safely recovered. On September 25, 2003, Drake was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution.

Award Recipient: Special Agent Colleen Maher, U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Inspector General, Long Beach, CA

Case: Search and Recovery of Aric Austin

     On December 20, 1981, Brent Austin kidnapped his six-week-old son, Aric. In 2003, Special Agent Colleen Maher with the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Education, investigated Michael David Johnson, Sr. for falsifying government secured student loans for his son. She noticed irregularities in the birth certificate and inconsistencies in Johnson, Sr.'s statements. Comparing dates of birth, weights and heights from the birth certificate with those on NCMEC's missing kids database, she identified Aric Austin as the possible true identity of the suspect's son. She compared an age progressed image of Aric Austin with the suspect's son's California driver's license photograph. A fingerprint analysis conclusively identified Johnson, Sr. as Brent Austin. On October 24, 2003, the suspect known as Michael Johnson, Sr. was arrested and later pled guilty. After twenty-years, Aric and his mother were reunited.



Award Recipient: Detective James Smith, Computer Crimes and Electronic Evidence Unit, Connecticut State Police Department, Meridien, CT
Award Recipient: Postal Inspector Martin Vega, Jr, U.S.P.I.S, Wallingford, CT

Case: Search and arrest of Ismael Cohen

     In May of 2003, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's (NCMEC) Child Victim Identification Project received a videotape depicting child pornography. On October 8, 2003, Detective James Smith with the Connecticut State Police and U.S. Postal Inspector Martin Vega, Jr. identified and interviewed the children depicted in the videos along with their families. However, someone outside the families directed them to a possible address. They discovered the man they were looking for was 48-year-old Ismael Cohen, who was arrested on charges of Employing a Minor in an Obscene Performance. To date, five individuals have been arrested on a total of 28 felony charges and seven child victims have been identified.

Award Recipient: Special Agent Supervisor Jeffrey Mackanin, Sacramento SAFE Valley Task Force, California Department of Justice
Award Recipient: Special Agent Reginald Ogata, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sacramento SAFE Valley Task Force
Award Recipient: Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurel White, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Office, Sacramento, CA

Case: Search and arrest of Jason Morgan

     In April of 2003, the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Investigation (CBI) began an investigation of 26-year-old Jason Morgan, who, in an online conversation, expressed a desire to travel for the sole purpose of molesting a child. After the investigation was initiated, the Sacramento Valley Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Task Force appointed Special Agent Supervisor Jeff Mackanin, with CBI, to head the investigation. Morgan proved to be very guarded and law enforcement savvy. However, with the help of FBI Special Agent Reginald Ogata and Assistant U.S. Attorney White, and others, they monitored Morgan's computer 24 hours a day. After 19 days of surveillance, approximately 2,000 individuals were caught in conversations indicating their desire to receive child pornography images. In September of 2003, Morgan was arrested on charges of child pornography and is awaiting trial.



Award Recipient: Elizabeth Smart, Salt Lake City, UT

     On June 5, 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was abducted at knifepoint from her family's home in Salt Lake City. Nearly a year after being taken away from her family, on Wednesday, March 12, 2003, Elizabeth mustered the courage to relay to authorities her true identity. Elizabeth's ability to assert her identity and come forward in the presence of her abductor is truly remarkable. Her recovery has given hope to searching families everywhere. For her bravery and resilience Elizabeth is being awarded the 2004 National Courage Award.



Award Recipient: The Gayter Family, Paul Gayter, Flora Nicholas and their two children. Falls Church, VA

     On April 30, 2000, the Gayters 9-year-old daughter disclosed that she had been sexually assaulted by a kid's camp counselor at a hotel during a recent vacation. The alleged child molester was arrested and charged several days later, but was released on bail. The Gayters were frustrated by the limited resources available to their prosecutor. Shortly before the trial, the Gayters were referred to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Ironically, they had been given NCMEC's telephone number earlier but they did not contact them because they thought they only helped with missing kids. To the contrary, NCMEC's staff provided legal assistance and support to the Gayters prosecutor, enlisted the investigative help of the FBI and Interpol, and alerted British law enforcement of a local child who had been assaulted by the same man during the same week as their daughter. And just before the trial started, NCMEC staff members discovered a third child who had been allegedly exploited by the same attacker.

     After the trial, the Gayters, who are advertising professionals volunteered their skills, time and money to create a campaign that would define NCMEC as an organization that also helps sexually exploited children and their families: The Campaign Against Child Sexual Exploitation. For these efforts, the Gayters are the recipients of the National Volunteer Award.



Award Recipient: America Online

     America Online (AOL) has been helping NCMEC since 1997 when NCMEC launched a program called KID PATROL that allowed AOL subscribers to receive missing child photos and e-mail alerts and keep updated digital IDs of their children. In 1998, AOL's Steve Case joined FBI Director Louis Freeh and NCMEC in launching the CyberTipline, the reporting tool for child sexual exploitation. AOL took the initiative to be the first to comply with the federal law to report child pornography images to the CyberTipline and to develop a software interface to streamline their reporting. In 1998, AOL started America Links Up, a national public education campaign to ensure children and families have safe, educational and rewarding experiences online. In 2002, AOL launched its AMBER Alerts program and, in 2003, ran a CyberTipline awareness campaign with NCMEC.

     Though AOL has experienced growth and change over the years, their commitment to missing children's issues and to NCMEC has never wavered. For their commitment, AOL is receiving the 2004 Corporate Award which was presented to Ted Leonsis, Vice Chairman and President of AOL Core Services.

     Accepting individual awards were two AOL employees who have worked to educate law enforcement and the public about online crimes against children: Don Colcolough [coke-lee], Director of Investigations & Online Security and John Ryan, AOL's Assistant General Counsel.