CORAM, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A father and his 2-year-old son are believed to be dead following a suspected kidnapping that started on Long Island and ended states away.
Now, the question on many people’s minds: Why wasn’t an AMBER Alert issued?
Police had been searching for 43-year-old John Ligurgo III and 2-year-old Jovani Ligurgo since Tuesday evening.
Authorities said Ligurgo had just lost his job and was in a custody battle for the boy.
On Tuesday morning, the child’s mother dropped him off at Ligurgo’s condo in Coram for a visit.
“This child – I saw him get into the car with his mother. His brother was making him a table with little cars on it,” one resident told CBS2.
“I am sick over it,” another said.
“It’s a terrible feeling. My heart is going 100 miles an hour right now,” said another.
Later Tuesday afternoon, Ligurgo allegedly set two beds on fire inside the condo, then escaped with a rifle and the boy.
The mother arrived from Smithtown and told investigators her son was missing, and so was his father in a black Jeep.
The next morning, police in Virginia found the vehicle with two bodies inside — believed to be those of Ligurgo and the 2-year-old. A positive identification is pending.
“Thank everybody for all the help that was put out on Facebook, all the shares. It really does help, it really does matter,” said a loved one. “That’s all we have for now.”
When asked why an AMBER Alert was not issued, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart told CBS2, “We followed protocol.”
“We provided the necessary information and details to the State Police, and at that time they made the determination not to issue the AMBER Alert,” she continued.
New York State Police said by the time they were contacted, around 8 p.m., the missing Jeep had already been spotted going over the George Washington Bridge and was in New Jersey.
Suffolk County Police said they also notified law enforcement nationwide, but no civilian alert was made until a media release just after midnight. They defended the response time, saying the child’s mother didn’t respond to the condo fire until the evening.
“When she responds there, about 5:30 or quarter to six, she meets arson detectives who interview her and determine at that point that there needs to be more investigation into trying to locate the child,” Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante said.
State Police also said Ligurgo had no criminal history, no history of violence and had never harmed the boy.
Family friend Caitlin Wider set up a GoFundMe page to support the family with funeral costs for the tiny, innocent victim.
“It’s the littlest thing I could do in such a terrible situation,” she said. “There’s no words to explain or say to make anything better.”
Jovani’s older brother told CBS2, “Someone needs to be held accountable for the fact that an AMBER alert was never even posted.”
Other family members were sick, wondering if the outcome could have been different.