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Amber Alert case draws praise

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A man taken into custody following the issuance of an Amber Alert Wednesday night remained in the psychiatric unit of University Hospital Thursday.

Meanwhile, everyone involved in the boy's recovery and with the Amber Alert system Thursday praised the effectiveness of the program.

Timothy Martinez was taken into custody at 9:19 p.m. in West Jordan, a little more than an hour after the Amber Alert was issued. Martinez had taken his 3-year-old son and allegedly threatened to kill both the boy and himself.

"Things went like clockwork last night. It worked exactly like it was supposed to work," said Paul Murphy, spokesman for the Utah Attorney General's Office.

The Amber Alert was issued at 7:51 p.m. Within two minutes the information was being transmitted on the Internet, pagers, cell phones and freeway signs, according to a timeline kept by the Attorney General's Office. Within eight minutes it was on TV and radio.

At 8:57 p.m. a motorist spotted Martinez's car. A total of two motorists called the sheriff's office to report the vehicle.

Tonya McPeak was driving to her house in Herriman with her two young boys when they heard the Amber Alert on the radio and saw the freeway sign messages. She talked about what the alert meant with her boys as they traveled from I-215 to I-15 and out to the Bangerter Highway.

Near 13400 South and Bangerter, McPeak said she turned a corner and Martinez's car was right in front of her.

"My boys kept yelling, 'No way, Mom, no way,' " she said.

McPeak watched Martinez pull into a gas station as she called police on her cell phone. She said she pretended to pump gas as she watched Martinez pull into a parking stall, turn off his lights and just sit there.

She could see the young boy sitting in the back seat. McPeak said he appeared to be OK. He wasn't fighting to get out of the car. A portable DVD player was playing on the dashboard.

Martinez did not get out of his car. After a few minutes, he turned his lights back on and left the parking lot, McPeak said.

She continued to follow him for a little bit before losing him in construction. A short time later, Martinez was captured.

"I can't believe anyone would doubt (the Amber Alert's) effectiveness," she said. "I'm glad (the boy) is safe and sound. I have three boys, and I can't imagine missing even one of them for a few hours."

The Attorney General's Office will review this case as it does all Amber Alert incidents.

Salt Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Rosie Rivera said all four criteria for issuing an Amber Alert were met. The victim was a juvenile. Law enforcement believed the child had been abducted. The opportunity was there for public information to be made available to help in the boy's recovery. And even though the boy was taken by his father, there was evidence he was in imminent danger.

Even though custody disputes and runaways are not usually considered for Amber Alerts, there are times when custodial cases meet the criteria for an Amber Alert to be issued, Murphy said.

Rivera said the department is not worried about parents involved in child custody disputes now trying to issue false Amber Alerts on the other party. In Wednesday's incident, the sheriff's office first received the call at 5:42 p.m., Rivera said.

Several supervisors and investigators looked at the case before the alert was issued, she said.

"We're not just going to jump on it without trying to get verification," Rivera said. "We have ways to make sure (a false report) doesn't occur."

On Thursday Murphy praised the training of Salt Lake County's employees for their effective use of the Amber Alert system.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com