Why not alert Amber in the murder case of AL, GA Kamarie Holland?
As mourners gathered in Phenix City on Wednesday for the funeral of 5-year-old Kamarie Holland, nine days after her disappearance across the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, a lingering question remained:
Why wasn’t it a Amber Alert issued in that case, which became a homicide investigation when Kamarie was found dead that night in Phenix City?
Although the Columbus Police Department called for the alert, known as the The call of Levi in Georgia, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation rejected the request because it did not meet the criteria, according to the GBI.
Amber stands for America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response. The national alert system began in 1996, when broadcasters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area partnered with local police to develop an early warning mechanism to help locate abducted children. It’s named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington, Texas, who was murdered after being kidnapped while riding a bicycle.
Georgia’s version is Levi’s Call, named after 11-year-old Levi Frady of Forsyth County, also murdered after being kidnapped while riding a bicycle.
Kamarie’s mother told investigators she went to bed around midnight, while her daughter was asleep, and woke up around 5:50 a.m. on December 13 to find that Kamarie had left their home on Bowman Street, where the front door was ajar, County Sheriff Russell Heath Taylor. said at a press conference on Dec. 14. She called Columbus police at 6:15 a.m. to report her child missing, he said.
At 8:36 a.m., the Columbus Police Department emailed a press release on the case. At 11:09 am, CPD posted on twitter a “critical missing person” alert asking the public to help them find Kamarie. The post said she was last seen that day in the Bowman Street area. Along with a photo of her, the description said she was a white female, 3 feet 5 inches tall and 45 pounds, with brown eyes and sandy blonde hair.
“She was last seen wearing a pink and white shirt, brown pants with flowers and hearts,” the post read.
Fred Wimberly, the special agent in charge of the GBI Region 2 field office in Midland, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email interview that CPD investigator Derrick Moore made the request to Levi’s call to help find Kamarie around 10 a.m. on December 13.
Wimberly rejected the request because it did not meet all of Levi’s Call criteria, he said.
“CPD did not provide any information indicating that there had been a confirmed abduction of the child,” Wimberly said. “GBI has also not been made aware of a potential suspect.”
Police spokesperson Sgt. Aaron Evrard confirmed that the ministry asked the GBI to issue a Levi’s appeal and that the request was denied because it did not meet the criteria.
“Our reaction to the denial was to continue investigating,” Evrard told LE in an email. He listed the following steps the police took to locate Kamarie:
- Several broadcasts in the three sectors of the police radio.
- I emailed the media and the ministry about a “missing” person.
- I searched the house and the surrounding area.
- Called the Bureau of Investigation and Detective Services off-duty.
- Contacted utilities to search for storm sewers etc.
- Contacted the sheriff’s office, who verified registered sex offenders in the area.
- Contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has deployed tracker dogs to help with the search.
- Contacted the organization “A Child is Missing”, which helps disseminate notifications of missing children.
“We have aggressively investigated the matter and continue to do so,” Evrard said.
What triggers Levi’s call?
Here is Levi’s Call process, based on the GBI website and LE’s interview with Chris McKeown, a Deputy Special Agent in charge of GBI’s Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center at Decatur:
Local law enforcement contacts a regional GBI office and request that a Levi’s appeal be activated when they have reasonable grounds to believe that a child has been abducted. The office supervisor determines if the request meets these criteria for a Levi’s call:
If the GBI office supervisor determines that the criteria have been met, a Levi appeal form is sent to the Georgia State Patrol headquarters in Atlanta. The Patrol Communications Center sends Levi’s call to the appropriate organizations.
The Georgian Emergency Management Agency forwards the bulletin to the Georgian Association of Broadcasters, which forwards it to radio and television stations. The emergency alert system sends notifications to cell phones.
Kamarie was found dead around 11:15 p.m. on December 13 in a vacant Phenix City house where suspect Jeremy Tremaine Williams once lived, authorities said. Williams, 37, is charged with capital murder in Kamarie’s homicide. Evidence indicates that Kamarie was sexually assaulted and likely died of asphyxiation, Taylor said.
Editors Tim Chitwood and Brittany McGee contributed to this report.
This story was originally published 23 December 2021 6:00 a.m.