‘Athena Alert’ Passes, Provides Faster, Regional Alerts on Missing Kids

Texas Senate passes House’s “Athena Alert” bill, allowing local police to quickly issue a regional alert when a child vanishes without needing to confirm an abduction

A bill that will allow local police to quickly issue a regional alert about a missing child, without having to wait for investigators to confirm an abduction, is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

The new law is designed to create an alert known as an “Athena Alert” which fills the gap between when a child disappears and how long it may take investigators to confirm an abduction has taken place — which is the current threshold for officials to issue an AMBER Alert.

With an Athena Alert, police can use the existing AMBER Alert system to quickly distribute a localized alert to people within 100 miles of the reported disappearance, and to adjacent counties, notifying them a child is missing.

The sooner we can get the word out locally, the more chances we have to save a child’s life.

Benson Varghese, attorney representing Athena Strand’s mother Matilyn Gandy

The law is named after Athena Strand, a 7-year-old North Texas girl who vanished from her father’s Paradise home in November 2022 and was found dead two days later. A package delivery driver confessed to accidentally hitting Athena with his vehicle and then strangling her when she said she was going to tell her father about the incident.

The “Athena Alert,” aka House Bill 3556, was authored by state Rep. Lynn Stucky (R-Sanger). It was passed by the Texas House of Representatives on May 9 and sent to the Texas Senate where it was sponsored by state Sen. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound). The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday.

“I am so grateful to Texas lawmakers for fast-tracking the ‘Athena Alert’ and for everyone who has supported this legislation,” said Athena’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy. “It means so much to know that my daughter’s life will have a lasting impact.”

As the bill was debated in the Texas House, Gandy testified before a select committee on April 25, recalling how she asked for an AMBER Alert to be issued as soon as she found out her daughter was missing.

“Unfortunately, I kept getting met with the same response that she, in her case, did not meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert to be issued,” Gandy said in April. “I don’t want someone to feel how I feel. I don’t want a mother to have to carry home an urn with her children’s ashes. I don’t want to watch another grandparent mourn the way my dad did.”

An AMBER Alert was eventually issued in Athena’s case, but not until about 24 hours after she disappeared and not until after investigators said she’d been killed. Strand’s body was found the following day about six miles from her home.

“If this alert had been in place when my daughter disappeared, I have no doubt that the Wise County Sheriff’s Office would have activated it,” Gandy said. “Unfortunately, their hands were tied because my daughter’s disappearance didn’t immediately meet the strict criteria for a statewide AMBER Alert.”

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