DOJ Press Release letterhead

Friday, May 20, 2005
Office of Justice Programs
Contact: Catherine Sanders
Phone: (202) 307-0703
TTY: (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON, D.C.-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales today commemorated National Missing Children's Day by honoring law enforcement and citizens nationwide for their unprecedented teamwork and selfless efforts in the recovery of missing and exploited children.

     "A missing child is every parent's worst nightmare," said Attorney General Gonzales. "Every day, the courageous men and women of law enforcement work tirelessly to recover missing and exploited children across our nation. We are grateful for their dedication, and today we recognize their valiant efforts to apprehend would-be predators and keep our communities safe."

     Attorney General Gonzales today honored 25 law enforcement officers for their efforts to help missing and exploited children. Detailed award descriptions are attached.

  • Five law enforcement officers from Missouri received the Officer of the Year Award for Missing and Exploited Children for their role in the recovery of Victoria Stinnett, the baby removed from the womb of her mother, Bobbie Stinnett, last December in Skidmore, Missouri.
  • Two officers from Oregon received a National Missing Children's Law Enforcement Award for their role in the recovery of 11-year-old Tanner Kahn.
  • Four officers from Philadelphia received a National Missing Children's Law Enforcement Award for their detective work in helping recover six-year-old Delimar Vera, who was abducted from her parents' home when she was only 10 days old.
  • Nine officers who took part in Operation Falcon, an effort that resulted in taking a child pornography ring out of action, received a National Exploited Children's Law Enforcement Award.
  • Four officers from North Carolina received a National Exploited Children's Law Enforcement Award for breaking up a child sex and pornography ring based in Orlando, Florida.
  • One officer from Oklahoma was awarded a National Exploited Children's Law Enforcement Award for dismantling a child sex ring.

     Tracy Henke, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs and Acting National AMBER Alert Coordinator, presented the AMBER Alert Citizen Award to Charles Cogburn from Russellville, Arkansas, for his role in responding to an AMBER Alert that helped save the life of a 17-year-old Texas teenager. AMBER stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.

     AMBER Alerts have saved the lives of more than 200 children since 1996. In 2001, only four states had statewide AMBER Alert plans. In February, the Department of Justice met its goal having statewide AMBER Alert plans in place in all 50 states, to aid in the recovery of abducted children and creating a nationwide network of plans.

     Nearly 800,000 children are reported missing every year. Some children run away, others may be lost or injured, while some may be abducted by a parent or a stranger. For the more than 100 children abducted by strangers each year, where the child was kept overnight, held for ransom, or killed, the first few hours after an abduction are critical. Seventy-four percent of children who are abducted and later found murdered are killed in the first three hours after being taken. Most often, child abductions are committed by family members-more than 200,000 annually-in an attempt to deprive a caretaker of custodial rights. Of the 58,200 non-family abductions each year in the United States, nearly all (98 percent) of these children were returned to their families safely.

     The National Corporate Awards were awarded to Honeywell and RadioShack by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) for their efforts to inform the public about missing and exploited children's issues.

     The Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention issued four new publications to aid in the recovery of abducted and missing children: AMBER Alert: Bringing Abducted Children Home; AMBER Alert Fact Sheet: Effective Use of the National Crime Information Center or NCIC; AMBER Alert: Best Practices Guide for Broadcasters and Other Media Outlets; and a pocket card for law enforcement listing AMBER Alert criteria and information about NCIC.

     The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist 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 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 strategy and OJP's American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Desk. More information can be found at


U.S. Department of Justice
2005 National Missing and Exploited Children's Awards

The Officer of the Year Award: For the Recovery of Victoria Stinnett

Sheriff Ben Espey, Nodaway County Sheriff's Department, Maryville, Missouri
Corporal Jeffery M. Owen, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Platte City, Missouri
Sergeant David Merrill, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Maryville, Missouri
Investigator Randy Strong, Maryville Department of Public Safety, Maryville, Missouri
FBI Special Agent Kurt Lipanovich, St. Joseph, Missouri

On December 16, 2004, the mother of Bobbie Stinnett called 911 after she found her 23-year-old daughter dead in her Skidmore, Missouri, home. Bobbie had been expecting a baby, and the child had been cut from her womb. Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espey was the first on the scene. He learned that Bobbie had a visitor earlier in the day who was interested in buying one of the dogs she bred. When told that a red car had earlier been parked in front of the victim's home, Espey issued an AMBER Alert, which included a description of the car and its license plate number, and contacted the Missouri State Highway Patrol for assistance. By tracing e-mail exchanges between Stinnett and a woman who claimed to be a fellow dog breeder, FBI Agent Kurt Lipanovich and officials from the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Maryville Department of Public Safety identified a suspect, 37-year-old Lisa Montgomery of Melvern, Kansas. Montgomery confessed to killing Bobbie and cutting the baby from her womb. Montgomery is awaiting trial. The baby, named Victoria, was returned to her father.

National Missing Children's Law Enforcement Award: For the Recovery of Delimar Vera

Lieutenant Michael J. Boyle, Philadelphia Police Department Special Victims Unit
Detective Manuel Gonzalez, Philadelphia Police Department Special Victims Unit
Detective David Thomas, Philadelphia Police Department Special Victims Unit
Detective Kimberly Stone, Philadelphia Police Department Special Victims Unit

On a night in December, 1997, a fire and explosion destroyed the bedroom where 10-day-old Delimar Vera was sleeping. Authorities never found a body and presumed the infant had been killed. In February 2004, Delimar's mother, Luz Cuevas, attended a birthday party where she saw the woman suspected of starting the fire. With the woman was a six-year-old girl who resembled Delimar. Cuevas managed to clip a strand of the girl's hair and gave it to a team of detectives from the Philadelphia Police's Special Victims Unit. The investigators had the lock of hair analyzed but a test revealed the strand lacked sufficient identifiable information. The team then launched a full-scale investigation, and after several attempts by the suspect to evade authorities, they located Delimar and obtained a DNA swab that confirmed the child was in fact the daughter of Cuevas, who has since been reunited with her.

National Missing Children's Law Enforcement Award: For the Recovery of Tanner Kahn

Deputy Micah W. Smith, Linn County Sheriff's Office, Albany, Oregon
Corporal Michael Harmon, Linn County Sheriff's Office, Albany, Oregon

On October 14, 2004, 11-year-old Tanner Kahn disappeared while waiting at a bus stop. Tanner's mother contacted police, who suspected her boyfriend, 38-year-old Jeffrey Eggiman, of abducting the boy. Authorities issued a statewide AMBER Alert. Later that evening, a deer hunter, his son, and the son's friend encountered Eggiman and Tanner in the woods. Eggiman claimed to be a hunter, but carried no rifle, arousing their suspicion. One of the young men took note of Eggiman's vehicle and license plate, and, after seeing the alert on television, persuaded his mother to allow him to contact the Linn County Sheriff's Office. Following an extensive search in the Cascade Foothills, Deputy Micah Smith and Corporal Michael Harmon found Eggiman and Tanner. Eggiman fired upon the law enforcement agents and was fatally wounded, but Tanner was safely recovered.

National Exploited Children's Law Enforcement Award: For Dismantling Child Sex Ring

Lieutenant Kenny Wynns, Midwest City, Oklahoma Police Department

In March 2003, Lieutenant Kenny Wynns began investigating the activities within a massage parlor that had recently opened near a school, daycare facility, and children's dance studio. Lieutenant Wynns suspected the parlor to be a front for the prostitution of children. One month later, he and a team of investigators executed two search warrants that led to five arrests. Over the course of 26 months, Lieutenant Wynns identified dozens of escort services, more than 100 individuals who provided children for sex, and 11 child victims. He also learned that the FBI, the Oklahoma City Police Department, the District Attorney, and the U.S. Attorney's office had been investigating some of the same people. Police have arrested 23 suspects, 11 of whom have pleaded guilty, and 12 are awaiting court dates.

National Exploited Children's Law Enforcement Award: Operation Falcon

Supervisory Special Agent Susan Cantor, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Newark, NJ
Supervisory Special Agent Peter Fitzhugh, U.S. ICE, Newark, NJ
Senior Intelligence Specialist Peter Buchan, U.S. ICE, Newark, NJ
Deputy Chief Carlos F. Ortiz, U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McCarren, U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey
Postal Inspector John Johnson, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Newark, New Jersey
Special Agent Maria Reverendo, Internal Revenue Service, Springfield, New Jersey
Detective Kurt Jones, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Jacksonville, Florida
Detective Michael Boymer, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Jacksonville, Florida

In 2004, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, working with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Internal Revenue Service; U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey; and the Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff's Office, launched Operation Falcon to investigate a child pornography enterprise. Operation Falcon seized computer servers from a company known as RegPay, which was suspected of advertising and distributing child pornography. Through careful research, cultivation of contacts, and diligent efforts, the task force painstakingly dismantled an enormous network of sexual predators. To date, officials have made more than 1,200 arrests internationally and 200 arrests in the United States.

National Exploited Children's Law Enforcement Award: For Capture of Marvin Witherspoon, Carl Hollar, and Marvin Trivette

Postal Inspector Lisa Holman, Charlotte, North Carolina
Investigator Joanna Morton, Hickory Police Department, North Carolina
Special Agent Lori D. Shank, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Charlotte, North Carolina
Special Agent Ginger Hutchinson, Hickory, North Carolina

In late 2003, a team of four officers began investigating a child sex and pornography ring allegedly led by Marvin Witherspoon. Investigator Joanna Morton of the Hickory, North Carolina Police Department had encountered Witherspoon earlier while investigating a statutory rape allegation. Morton obtained a search warrant for Witherspoon's home and found 350 videotapes depicting sexual acts with adults and young boys, documents referencing Disney World, and several cameras. The search warrants helped the officers to identify two more suspects, Carl Hollar and Marvin Trivette, and led them to a house recently purchased by Witherspoon near Disney World. In searching that home, they confiscated child pornography videotapes, boys' underwear, area maps with children's parks highlighted, and evidence that Witherspoon had been in contact with a local Boy Scout troop. The three were arrested on federal warrants and pleaded guilty. Hollar and Trivette were given combined sentences of more than 17 years. Witherspoon is awaiting federal and state sentencing, and is facing more than 20 years in prison.

AMBER Alert Citizen Award:

Charles Cogburn, Russellville, Arkansas

Just before heading out on his regular run to Texarkana, Charles Cogburn, a truck driver with TCL Trucking in Russellville, Arkansas, saw a televised AMBER Alert for 17-year-old Shauna Leigh Owens of Plano, Texas. While driving along Interstate 40, Cogburn saw a vehicle that matched the description of the one in the AMBER Alert. Cogburn called 911 and radioed ahead to other truckers asking them to verify the license plate as the vehicle had moved ahead of him in traffic. Authorities stopped the vehicle and apprehended the suspect, who had been holding Shauna at gunpoint.

National Corporate Award:

Honeywell, Morristown, New Jersey

In 2003, Honeywell partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to develop a curriculum called GOT 2B SAFE, which promotes awareness about child abduction to children aged eight to 10 years and their families. GOT 2B SAFE has been distributed to 50,000 schools through the Weekly Reader publication. Some of Honeywell's 60,000 employees are participating in NCMEC's Ambassadors Program that helps educate communities about where families can obtain child safety information.

RadioShack, Fort Worth, Texas
Through its STREETSENZ program, RadioShack used its 7,200 stores to provide families with abduction and child exploitation prevention materials. RadioShack also links its stores to the ADAM broadcast-fax system, which enables the NCMEC to send photos of missing children in breaking cases to stores in geographically targeted areas. RadioShack launched its STREETSENZ Film Festival in 2004 to engage teens in developing public service announcements about important child safety issues.

National Missing Children's Day Art Contest Winner

Dana Sever, Alimitos Elementary School, San Jose, California.

Miss Sever, a fifth grade student, was selected from among 1000 entries. Her winning drawing was on display at the Department of Justice ceremony and will be featured in missing children-related publications and conferences.