On Oct. 25, 5-year-old Prince McCree was home sick from school, playing video games. Then, he disappeared.

The police in Milwaukee asked state officials to issue an Amber Alert. The request was denied, and a day later Prince was found dead in a dumpster.

Now, his family is asking why no alert was issued and if it could have helped save his life.

“How does a child go missing and you don’t make an emergency alert?” said Lisa Casey, Prince’s cousin.

While his mother was asleep, Prince went to play video games in the basement with Erik Mendoza, 15, and David Pietura, 27, both of whom also lived in the house, according to the complaint.

Prince McCreeCredit…Courtesy of family

Prince’s mother noticed he was missing later that day when she went to check on him. After she couldn’t find him, she called the police, according to the complaint. Relatives, neighbors and friends also took to the streets and began searching for the boy.

The Milwaukee Police Department requested an Amber Alert that was ultimately denied by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which issues them for the state.

Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Pietura were later charged in Prince’s death after admitting their involvement to the police, according to the criminal complaint.

Mr. Mendoza was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, physical abuse of a child, hiding a corpse and recklessly endangering safety. If convicted, he could face up to two life sentences plus 65 years in prison and fined up to $100,000. Mr. Pietura was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, physical abuse of a child, repeated acts causing death and hiding a corpse. If convicted, he could face up to two life sentences plus 12 years and six months in prison and fined up to $25,000.

A total of 53 Amber Alerts have been issued in Wisconsin since the program’s statewide inception in 2003. Nationally, about 254 alerts were issued in 2021 involving 320 children, according to the most recent U.S. Justice Department report.

To qualify for an Amber Alert, a missing child must be under 17 years of age and in danger of serious bodily harm or death, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The law enforcement agency requesting the alert must have “enough descriptive information about the child, the suspect and/or the suspect vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast alert will help locate the child.”.

The state’s Department of Justice refused to explain why it declined the request from Milwaukee and said that charges had been filed by the district attorney and that it would not be “releasing law enforcement sensitive information,” said Gillian Drummond, a spokeswoman for the department.

Friends and relatives began sharing a photo of Prince on social media soon after he disappeared, and about 40 minutes later the authorities alerted local media, said State Sen. LaTonya Johnson, who lived a few houses away from Prince, and helped search for him.

The local police contacted about 200 homes and businesses, according to the complaint, but still didn’t find him. Officers were eventually led to Prince’s body after interviewing Mr. Pietura, who told them he had been put in a dumpster behind a bar.

State Senator Johnson said that an Amber Alert might not have helped Prince, but she was looking into creating a system of local alerts for similar situations when an Amber Alert would not be available.

“We had neighbors on our block, who went to sleep and woke up to the fact that Prince was found dead and did not even realize he was missing,” she said.

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