Lack of Amber Alert after suspected killer leaves with young daughter raises questions

Chesley J. Black

A dead mother. A father accused of killing her and vanishing with his 2-year-old.

In the Upstate, an Amber Alert was issued for that situation in May. But in the Lowcountry, the same type of scenario last week did not trigger an alert.

Should an Amber Alert have been issued?

Most certainly, the legislator who proposed the state Amber Alert system nearly a decade ago said Friday.

Chesley "CJ" Black Jr. had disappeared with his 2-year-old daughter, Khloe. A relative called police when Black's other daughter, Audri, 4, told her that their father had killed her mother in a violent argument at their West Ashley home.

Police raced to the crime scene. Three hours later, they found Khloe at Black's mother's house in Sumter. During the search, the Charleston County Sheriff's Office was in constant communication with the State Law Enforcement Division, which issues an Amber Alert at the request of local law enforcement.

An all-points bulletin was issued that included the suspect's vehicle tag number and a description of his vehicle. Investigators were gathering information during those 180 minutes, sifting evidence, evaluating.

"We were working a homicide as well as the child," said Maj. Jim Brady of the Sheriff's Office.

SLED spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson said the Charleston County Sheriff's Office said it wanted an Amber Alert for Black but then put the alert on hold. "They just weren't ready for us to hit the button," Richardson said.

State Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, proposed the state Amber Alert system in 2002.

"I would certainly think if there was a murder involved, that would qualify for an Amber Alert. The Amber Alert is for when the child is in danger," Limehouse said.

"I would say as author of the Amber Alert if there ever was a situation when an alert would be issued this was it. In my view, an Amber Alert should have been issued," he said.

Police said Black fatally stabbed his wife, Amanda, Sept. 8 then hung around their Fife Lane home until around noon the next day. He then drove to her sister's home, where he brushed aside questions about Amanda's whereabouts, police said. Black told them he was heading to Santee and would be back in about 45 minutes. He then vanished with Khloe, police said.

Black was located around midnight Sept. 9 near a relative's house in Sumter County. He is charged with murder.

While Khloe was with her father, the Sheriff's Office was taking the steps to issue an Amber Alert if necessary, but the situation didn't meet the established criteria, Brady said. It's important to follow the checks built into the system to avoid issuing a false Amber Alert that, over time, could cause the public to pay less attention to an alert, he said.

As part of the Amber Alert "check-off sheet," law enforcement has to rule out other locations where a child could be before issuing an alert. The situation was "not a non-custodial abduction" in that the child was with her father, Brady said..

In May, Carl Eugene White Jr., 28, of Rock Hill confessed to fatally shooting his wife after an argument, authorities said. White fled with their 23-month-old child, Zaylen Carlik White. Police issued an Amber Alert, and White was pulled over on Interstate 20 in Aiken County about an hour later, according to The Herald in Rock Hill.