WEST VALLEY CITY Police have handed over evidence to the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office to consider possible charges against the father of three young children who are still the subject of an ongoing Amber Alert.
Police believe Israel Hernandez, 30, took his three children, even though he has no custodial rights to them. Xiomara Hernandez-Torres, 3, Pablo Hernandez, 4, and Alicia Hernandez, 6, were last seen Aug. 31 when their father came to pick them up for a weekly visit.
Hernandez lost custody of his children in 2006 because of a continued pattern of physical abuse. They were given to another relative, but he was allowed supervised visits. Over the years, however, police say the relative had become lax about letting Hernandez take the children for a few hours unsupervised.
He is also believed to be on the run with his girlfriend, 32-year-old Marta Torres, according to police.
Prosecutors will consider potential charges of felony custodial interference, said West Valley Police Capt. Tom McLachlan.
Meanwhile, the Amber Alert for the children remained active Thursday, a week and a half after it was issued.
"We want to let people know we're still looking," McLachlan said.
Paul Murphy, with the Attorney General's Office and Utah's Amber Alert coordinator, said during a recent training session on the alert system that there was discussion about the Destiny Norton case and whether the alert was canceled too quickly.
Norton, 5, was kidnapped in front of her Salt Lake house and killed in 2006. An Amber Alert was initially issued, then canceled in favor of an endangered person advisory, but then reissued after more evidence was uncovered.
"When the Amber Alert is called off, people assume we're no longer looking for the child," Murphy said. "We're still very concerned and very worried about those children."
By continuing to have the Amber Alert in effect, Hernandez and the description of his vehicle will be on a national database that officers all over the nation have access to, he said.
"If they pull over one of his vehicles, they'll immediately know he's the subject of an Amber Alert," Murphy said.
This is the longest Amber Alert Utah has had since the Elizabeth Smart abduction in 2002. At that time, the warning to alert the public of missing children was still known as the Rachael Alert in honor of Rachael Runyan, who was kidnapped and killed in 1982 near Sunset. The alert for Smart was active the entire nine months she was missing, Murphy said.
"The public will always be the key in helping resolve these cases," he said.
Investigators believe Hernandez may have been headed with his children to Mexico.
Xiomara Hernandez-Torres weighs 25 pounds and was last seen wearing a rose-colored shirt, black pants and white shoes.
Alicia Hernandez is 3 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 40 pounds. She has black hair and brown eyes and was last seen wearing a red and pink shirt and white shorts.
Pablo Hernandez is 3 feet tall and weighs 30 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a blue shirt with white stripes, blue jeans and white shoes.
The group is believed to be traveling in a black Cadillac Escalade or a maroon Chevrolet Corsica.Anyone with information on the missing children or their father can call 911 or West Valley police at 840-4000.
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