November 19, 1999


New DA Website Helps Abducted Children

Every 40 seconds, a child is abducted in the United States. 99 percent are abducted by a family member. In San Diego County, the number of child abduction cases involving non-custodial parents or other relatives opened by the District Attorney's Office has grown so significantly as to cause the size of the Child Abduction Unit to double over the last two years.

A new website debuts today in an effort to combat this trend. The District Attorney's "Missing Children" website features photographs and detailed information about missing children abducted from their homes. Profiles of the abductor and possible clues about their location are also provided. The web site also contains valuable information on child abduction, what to do in the event of an abduction, and how to contact the DA's Child Abduction Unit.

The "San Diego Missing Children" website can be found on the DA's page of the Country of San Diego website at www.co.san-diego.ca.us. Use the Table of Contents to find the District Attorney's page, and click on Department Services, then to "Abducted Children" to reach the site.

Deputy District Attorney Garry Haehnle, who runs the Child Abduction Unit, hopes the website will be a valuable tool that helps him and the unit's investigators work with the public to locate missing children. "We want to use every resource we can to locate and return missing children to their homes. The more we can expose the public to photos of these children, the more chance there is that someone can provide us new information that leads to a happy reunion."

One of San Diego County's most high profile child abduction cases in 1999 was solved when the missing children's photographs were recognized on a website operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. (www.missingkids.com)

Eugia Morse disappeared with her three children in October 1996 after losing a bitter custody fight with the children's father. Two-and-a-half years later, a tipster recognized the children's photos on the Internet. He called San Diego DA investigators from Houston, Texas, with information that eventually lead to their recovery and the arrest and prosecution of Ms. Morse.

Since many cases resolve themselves within three months, cases were children have been missing longer than three months will be placed on the website. All cases where criminal charges are filed will also be placed on the website.

"If we can repeat the success of the Morse child abduction case through the website, or raise public awareness about child abduction even a small amount, all our efforts will be worthwhile," says Haehnle.

The DA's website will also be linked to the Southern California Child Abduction Resistance Education Program ("CARES") website, which is part of an abduction prevention program run by the YMCA and the EYE Crisis and Counseling Center. The CARES website address is www.socalcares.org. The District Attorney's Office is working with the YMCA and the EYE on this very valuable community program aimed at educating parents and children in the area of child abduction.

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