Amber Alert helps police track down abducted girl

MAPLE HEIGHTS, Ohio (AP) - Northeast Ohio's first Amber Alert resulted in the recovery of a 5-year-old girl who had been taken from her home in the Cleveland suburb of Maple Heights.

The police department was inundated with phone calls within an hour of the alert, Detective Gerald Prusha said.

In the alert, police were seeking James Bennett, 21, of Cleveland Heights, who was taken into custody when Euclid authorities raided an apartment building about 10:40 p.m. Wednesday and found Bennett with the girl, Imari Brooks.

Maple Heights, Cleveland Heights and Euclid police coordinated efforts with the FBI and found Imari, apparently unharmed.

Amber Alerts are named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl abducted and later found murdered in Arlington, Texas. They are national bulletins, distributed through radio and television broadcasts and electronic highway signs, on kidnapped children and their abductors.

A regional Amber plan has been in the works in northeast Ohio for several months. A similar system is already in place in the Cincinnati area, and state legislators and Gov. Bob Taft have called for a statewide plan by Jan. 1.

Prusha said police exhausted all their leads before broadcasting the kidnapping alert. He said threats also had been made discouraging the family from contacting authorities.

Before the kidnapping, police said Bennett and another man abducted the girl's aunt, Candace Stevenson, 27, after they heard that she and her sister had come into money. She escaped and called police.

Police said Bennett used Stevenson's keys to get into the house and take Imari from her bedroom between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Nearly 50 Amber plans have been adopted at local, regional and statewide levels, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The center says Amber stands for America's Missing Broadcast Emergency Response.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)