Recently, Amber Alert played a key role in the recovery of a 5-year-old girl snatched from her grandmother's care in Morgan County. The girl, allegedly taken by her biological mother who does not have custody of the child, and a boyfriend, was found in the care of an Evanston, Wyo., motel clerk the day after her abduction. The pair asked the clerk, who was an acquaintance of the boyfriend, to care for the child temporarily. The suspects, Julia Wheelright and Donald Watters, were in a rollover Saturday in Ogden Canyon. They were arrested after a short chase on foot.
Police said the Amber Alert stirred suspicion in the motel clerk and an Ogden Canyon resident, who provided cigarettes to the pair to buy time for sheriff's deputies to reach his ranch, where the couple had walked after their car crash.
Time and time again, the Amber Alert proves its worth. So did its predecessor, the Rachael Alert. It was named for 3-year-old Rachael Runyan, who was abducted from a playground adjacent to her home in Sunset in 1982. Her body was found three weeks later near Mountain Green. That was 25 years ago.
In succeeding years, Utah, in consultation with Runyan's family, agreed to name its alert system the Amber Alert to conform with a nationwide movement. Considering that Utah was an innovator in this movement, it was a highly gracious gesture on the part of the family to agree to switch to the Amber moniker. The family does, however, sponsor an annual award in Rachael's name to recognize private citizens whose response to such alerts results in the safe return of a child.
While this may blunt the loss of their daughter, the family wants Rachael's killer to be held to account. Law enforcement officials have reopened Rachael's case. The public's help is needed to help connect the dots. A $53,000 reward has been offered.
As the recent homicide trial in the 1986 death of Tiffany Hambleton demonstrated (the defendant, Dan L. Petersen of Arizona, was acquitted), it is very difficult to secure convictions in cases that are decades old. Even so, it is important that police and prosecutors seek justice for Rachael. Anyone who knows anything about this case should contact the Sunset Police Department at 801-825-1620. The smallest tip may lead to an arrest.