SAN ANTONIO – When 19-year-old Trinity University student Cayley Mandadi was killed, her mother said there was an enormous gap in the emergency alert system.
Cayley wasn’t under 18, so an Amber Alert was not an option.
Through her grief and determination, Mandadi’s mother, Alison Steele, fought to get a bill passed by the state legislature, creating what’s called a CLEAR Alert.
The alerts are happening, but Steele said not enough people know what they mean.
Cayley Mandadi disappeared in October 2017. She was later found with severe injuries and died.
Her boyfriend, Mark Howerton, was charged with murder, sexual assault and kidnapping. In December, Howerton’s case was declared a mistrial when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict, but District Attorney Joe Gonzales plans to retry the case.
“This was a unique case in that it involved a known suspect, driving a known vehicle in a known area at a known time. And those are ideal conditions for sending out an emergency alert,” Steele said.
Steele said Mandadi’s friends frantically searched for her the night she disappeared and immediately reported her missing to police, but because Mandadi was 19, she just missed the criteria for sending out an Amber Alert.
After Mandadi’s death, her parents created the CLEAR Alert, standing for Coordinated Law Enforcement Adult Rescue.
A missing person is reported to 911 and if the following criteria are met, local law enforcement officers can request that DPS send out an alert statewide:
1. The missing adult must be between 18 and 64 years old.
2. There must be an involuntary disappearance such as a kidnapping, or an imminent danger of injury or death.
3. The alert request must be made within 72 hours .
4. There must be sufficient information available to give the public.
On May 14, 2019, the state bill to legally create a CLEAR Alert, passed unanimously and went into effect September 1, 2019.
Steele is glad the alert is being used, but thinks it can be further utilized.
"When this did pass into law, law enforcement did receive briefings and what not within their own agencies. We're trying to expand upon that training," Steele said.
Steele attends law enforcement emergency alert training sessions across the state, alongside families of other young women who have died.
“We look at other cases of adult disappearances and say, ‘OK, here’s how it went down in this particular case, and these are the signs you should be looking for,’” Steele said.
Steele said educating the public is also crucial.
"It all starts with that first call to 911. There are a lot of people who today still believe in the older idea that you have to wait 72 hours or 24 hours or whatever to report a person missing. That's not true. If somebody truly believes there is a missing person, they might be in danger, they need to be on the phone in the first 5 minutes not 72 hours," she said.
Steele said right now, Texas is the only state that has the CLEAR Alert, but other states are trying to follow suit.
She said Alabama and Wisconsin have both expressed great interest. She hopes to assist officials in the process, considering the amount of time she spent in Austin working with the Texas Legislature on the bill.