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3 are jailed in abduction; baby recovering in hospital

SHARE 3 are jailed in abduction; baby recovering in hospital

Police have arrested three transients believed to have abducted an infant from a downtown mall.

Casandra Gonzalez, Harold Daniel Rutledge and Myra Izer were booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of child kidnapping, a first-degree felony. They were taken into custody Wednesday afternoon after seeking services for the 2 1/2-month-old boy at the downtown YWCA about 2 p.m., Salt Lake police said.

Nicholas Alan Triplett was reported missing about 6 p.m. Tuesday. He and his mother had been at the ZCMI Center food court with a group of friends, which included the man and two women. Jennie Triplett said she left the boy for a few minutes while she went to have a cigarette and returned to find Gonzalez, 19, Rutledge, 33, and Izer, 35, had left with the child.

Jennie Triplett, 19, said she had considered the three her friends but believed they took the boy because they thought she was an unfit mother.

Baby Nicholas was taken to Primary Children's Medical Center after he was found. He had been suffering some respiratory problems before his abduction, his mother said. Hospital officials said they planned to keep the boy for several days and listed him in fair condition Thursday morning.

Jennie Triplett had to wait to hold her son until after doctors examined him but said the joy of seeing him safe was "like the feeling I had when I delivered him." Homeless after losing her job, Triplett and her son have been living at various shelters and hanging out in the downtown area, where she met Gonzalez, Rutledge and Izer.

None of the three were talkative after being taken into custody, Salt Lake Police Sgt. Fred Louis said. They did not indicate where they spent the night Tuesday with the boy. It appears they went voluntarily to the YWCA.

Louis said there were numerous calls and e-mails from citizens after the Rachael Alert, which places information about the missing child on electronic highway signs, radio and television stations. Nationally, it is know as the Amber Alert.

But some have questioned police actions regarding the alert, which wasn't activated until 14 hours after the boy went missing.

Police have said that because this was not a stranger abduction and because they believed the three lacked the ability to leave the Salt Lake area, law enforcement did not think the alert was immediately necessary.

Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, said he was concerned when he learned about a delay in the alert. The Rachael Alert was first used in Utah when Smart's daughter was taken from the family home last June. She has never been found, and Smart and his wife, Lois, have lobbied Congress for a national alert law and regional coordination of alerts.

"The alert going out is completely up to the law enforcement agency, and I don't know every thing the police know. I'm sure they have their reasons," Smart said Thursday, adding that he didn't want to play detective. "So many of these cases are solved by the public's help, it's just paramount that these alerts go out right away."

The news that another child had been abducted was gut-wrenching for the Smart family, he said.

"We just literally had to turn off the radio and the TV," Smart said.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Tuesday he planned to meet with Salt Lake police to review their implementation of the alert in this case.

E-MAIL: jdobner@desnews.com