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Onnika Fisher found safe in Ga., Amber Alert canceled

5:43 PM, Dec 27, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: Amber Alert for missing 6-year-old
Charity Lucille Chatman booking photo from the Houston County Sheriff's Office

Update 12:41 a.m. Dec. 30

The Amber Alert for missing child 6-year-old, Onnika Fisher has been called off. The Amber Alert went out in Georgia Sunday at 5:43 p.m. and just a few hours later Charity Chatman was in custody.

The Houston County Sheriff's Office was notified by investigators with JSO that Chatman was likely in the area, according to Lt. Bard Stone with the HSCO. A search by law enforcement for Chatman's green Buick Century was underway, when a citizen reported seeing Chatman's car on I-75 in Perry, Georgia, Stone detailed. Chatman was pulled over by patrol officers at 11:14 p.m. with Fisher safe in her car.

Investigators with JSO were also in the area when Chatman was taken into custody according to Lt. Stone. Chatman was booked into the Houston County Jail on an outstanding warrant for interference with custody.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An alleged parental abduction led to an AMBER alert for a missing 6-year-old Friday night. 

The search continues into Monday morning. A JSO spokesman said police have received around 15 tips, but none has lead to the girl. 

The alleged abduction happened in the 6200 block of Dupont Station Court on the southside during a DCF supervised visit.

Charity Chatman was at the Jewish Family and Community Service Center on a visit with her daughter, 6-year-old Onnika Fisher while supervised by Florida Department of Children and Families, according to JSO Public Information Officer Shannon Hartley. The State of Florida has official custody rights of Fisher. 

Chatman took Fisher after the visit at 4:52 p.m. Police are now searching for a dark green 2000 Buick Century with Ohio license plates. The plate number is FPA 4958. photograph of the actual vehicle that Charity Chatman was driving during the abduction of her daughter, Onnika Fisher. A photograph of the vehicle provided by JSO on Saturday shows a trailer hitch receiver visible underneath the rear bumper of the vehicle which JSO says is a unique feature on that style of vehicle.

Fisher is described by JSO as black/mixed race, is 3-feet-10 inches tall and weighs 53 pounds. She was wearing a pony tail, blue jeans and a pink jacket with a white polka dot lining.

Chatman is 38 years old and is described as a black female wearing a red baseball cap, blue jeans and wears a green jacket. Hartley said Chatman has a history of mental illness and police are concerned for the child's welfare. 

Chatman is known to frequent hotels, particularly Red Roof Inns, according to JSO.

Police believe Chatman, who lost custody of her child six weeks ago, may be unstable due to emails she sent recently where she allegedly said the government was out to get her.

JSO has contacted the child's father and he is cooperating with authorities. Other family members are also cooperating, according to police.

JSO does not believe she will become violent towards her child. 

The JSO spokesperson said Saturday that when the child is found, Chatman will be charged with interference with custody.

"In my opinion this went as quickly as it possibly could with this situation," assistant chief Chris Butler said Saturday morning.

The AMBER alert was posted to the FDLE website within an hour of the abduction, but a full alert was not sent out by FDLE until around 8:30 p.m. 

DCF spokesman John Harrell told First Coast News on Saturday that the case worker supervising the visit, who was standing just two feet from the vehicle at the time of the abduction, was so shocked by the mother's move she didn't know what to do. She didn't know if she could physically stop her, Harrell said.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the vehicle or Chatman or Fisher is urged to contact JSO at 904-630-0500 or contact First Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS (8477).

FBI reports parental abductions increasing

The FBI reports that parental abductions increased by almost 50 percent last year. 

Ron Wirth, a retired special agent with the FBI, says just because the child is with a parent, doesn't mean the child is safe. 

"The focus of all of these investigations by the FBI, by state, by local authorities, is always the safe return of the victim to the responsible authority either a parent or to the state," said Wirth.

Records show Chatman's last known address was in Atlantic Beach. Duval County Clerk of Court Records also show she has an open case for an eviction in November of this year. 

John Harrell, a spokesperson for DCF, says about 800 supervised visitations take place in Jacksonville every month. The locations are decided on a case by case basis. 

In this case, the subcontracted agency was the Jewish Family and Community Services center on the Southside. The case worker was only supervising Chatman and her daughter.

"To me it looks like there was some type of plan from the mother to get the child away as far away from the building and get her close to the car," said Wirth.

Wirth says when the Amber Alert went out, law enforcement agencies throughout the Southeast were notified. He says officials know a lot can happen in 24 hours.

"What we're kind of looking for in the investigative part of this, does she have any friends, did she reach out to family, friends; is there a support group in some place that may be supporting her efforts to get the child," said Wirth.

Anyone aiding in the interference of custody with the state can also face charges.

AMBER Alert system adopted by all 50 states

It was just six months ago that the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office issued an AMBER alert for 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle. She was last seen at the Walmart on Lem Turner Road when her accused killer allegedly abducted her. She was found dead the next day. Three years ago another First Coast child, Somer Thompson, was abducted on her way home from school and her AMBER alert wasn't issued till the next day.

RELATED: Somer Thompson's Mom, Diena, Speaks to First Coast News in 2010

It was a normal day for the Thompson's 7-year-old. Somer was walking home from school with her twin brother and older sister. She got separated from them and that was the last time anyone saw her.

"She got out of school about 2:45 and at 4:03 was basically when I had become alerted and I left work and saw a Clay County deputy and immediately flagged him down outside of my car," said Diena Thompson, Somer's mother.

Thompson says at that moment she was a missing child, but with no proof someone had taken her, the AMBER alert wasn't issued until the next day.

"It was the next day before anything was put out about her and unfortunately it was too late," said Thompson.

On day three of the search for Somer, her body was found in a Georgia landfill. Her accused killer, 26-year-old Jared Harrell, plead guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.

AMBER alerts are only issued when an abducted child meets the AMBER alert criteria.  The child has to be under 17-years-old and must be at risk of injury or death. There also has to be a sufficient description of the child, captor, or captor's vehicle. 

All 50 states have an AMBER alert plan and there are 28 regional plans so these AMBER alerts can be carried across state lines.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 6-year-old Onnika Fisher is the only current AMBER alert, but there are currently 5 unsolved AMBER alerts; the most recent one being Haleigh Cummings who has been missing for five years. The AMBER alerts are frightening for any parent given the statistics of abductions.

"If your child is abducted that typically, statistically, they're dead after three hours so you really do have to get these AMBER alerts out to the public," said Thompson.

In Fisher's case, her abduction is a parental one, but authorities are working across state lines for her safe return. An abduction alert was issued in Georgia on Sunday. 

First for you: It's important to know that law enforcement has other alert systems for missing children and adults. If a child does not meet the criteria for an AMBER alert, a missing child alert is put in place. The media is still notified and police are still using emergency broadcast designs to engage the public in the search for a missing child. There are also silver alerts used to locate a missing person with a mental disability. 

First Coast News

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