MARY SANCHEZ

After horrors of Ottawa murders, public wants to believe in police work

Updated: 2013-05-14T23:20:44Z

By MARY SANCHEZ

The Kansas City Star

The search for Lana-Leigh Bailey concluded with an additional cruelty — one of timing — on Mother’s Day.

Unfortunately, it was early in the day set aside to honor motherhood that the sheriff of Franklin County, Kan., was able to report that the baby’s body had probably been found.

The Ottawa murders punctuate the depravity of humanity — that a man would allegedly murder two men, rape and murder a woman and then kill her 18-month-old little girl and toss her aside like trash.

In cases so filled with horrors, the public yearns for clear examples of how law enforcement works for them, not against. That didn’t consistently happen here.

Many of the questions involve confusion about Amber Alerts. Lana-Leigh’s disappearance did not initially fit the criteria.

Amber Alerts are to be used when a child is known to be in immediate, grave danger. Officials must have details, information that will help the public know what to focus on to help the search.

Lana-Leigh left with her mother, a safe person. She was not the focus of a custody battle, nor had she been abducted by a stranger, at least not initially.

Her mom simply left for work, planning to stop at a farm outside Ottawa.

Family members didn’t report her mother missing until two days later. That is not a criticism of them. It is simply the facts of how the case unwound, the information that police and sheriff’s deputies had to work with at the time.

Amber Alerts are powerful tools under the right circumstances. But officials are mindful not to dilute that strength with unwarranted overuse of Amber Alerts.

Still unanswered is whether Franklin County sheriff’s deputies went to the farm May 3 after being notified by Olathe police that Lana-Leigh and her mother were missing and had been expected there. The connection, maybe even an earlier discovery of the bodies, might have triggered a full-court press to find the child.

There’s also the question of why it took days to locate all of the murdered adults.

The stench of death is like no other and not easily mistaken, or missed. Yet Franklin County sheriff’s deputies apparently missed it as they initially searched the property.

Full autopsies, a clearer time line, even a trial might be necessary to answer whether the trauma of the families involved might have been lessened had law enforcement reacted differently, or faster.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

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