By James Clark - email
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Lubbock police are not shrinking in shame after harsh public criticism of their handling of a missing teenager who later turned out to be a murder victim. Instead, police spokesman, Captain Greg Stevens, says his fellow officers did a great job on the case.
Elizabeth Ennen, 15, was reported missing on January 5th. Sixteen days later police confronted the man suspected in her kidnapping and murder after seeing surveillance video from the Carriage House Motel on Slaton Road.
During those 16 days Elizabeth was not the subject of an Amber Alert, nor did police ask local media to publicize her photo. On January 17th, KCBD.com broke the story of Elizabeth's disappearance after learning that the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children created a missing child poster for Elizabeth, which classified her as an "Endangered Runaway."
On Monday evening, Lubbock police located Elizabeth's body in a remote area between Shallowater and New Deal. On Wednesday morning officials said she was asphyxiated. Humberto Salinas, 45, who lived at the Carriage House, is in jail on charges of kidnapping. The District Attorney says more charges are likely to follow due to the discovery of Elizabeth's body.
Answering An Angry Public
Stevens took issue with the many citizens who have criticized Lubbock police on Facebook or other social media websites.
"Some say it took 16 days," Stevens said. "It actually only took 16." Stevens emphasized the word only during a joint news conference Wednesday morning with the Medical Examiner and Lubbock County District Attorney.
Stevens says sometimes a missing child investigation takes years. He says police being able to turn around the investigation in only 16 days is a testament to the officers' dedication.
"I can't speak enough to the hard work and dedication of the detectives."
But here is perhaps the more salient issue for many. Even if police had reviewed surveillance video from the Carriage House on the night of her disappearance, "It would not have changed the outcome," Stevens said.
By the time Elizabeth's mother called police, "We believe that she was already a homicide victim ... and that's unfortunate."
A sighting of Elizabeth reported a week after her disappearance turned out to be wrong, according to Stevens.
The D.A. Also Defends P.D.
District Attorney Matt Powell also provided a passionate defense of Lubbock police.
"This ain't my first rodeo," Powell said. "The first report didn't have any evidence of a crime."
Powell says for police to figure out what happened after being lied to by the man who would later become their suspect is good police work.
"Two weeks, that's not very long on a case a like this," Powell said. "Look at what's going on in Colorado City."
Should police have looked at Salinas' criminal history on the night of Elizabeth's disappearance? She was last seen babysitting for Salinas' children in the Carriage House motel.
Stevens said Salinas fooled everyone at first. "The mother very much trusted this individual," Stevens said. According to Stevens, the mother believed Salinas was telling the truth, so that led the initial officers to also believe he was telling the truth.
In retrospect, Stevens says Salinas was only cooperating with police on the night of Elizabeth's disappearance to deceive everyone.
During the 16 days after Elizabeth went missing, Stevens said officers were investigating. For example they did stakeouts of Salinas' son who is closer in age to Elizabeth. There was at least one report that the two were dating.
Stevens said it's not their policy to run a criminal history on every person they talk to. It was only when detectives began to think that Salinas had lied to them about what he had seen and heard that night that officers looked into his background.
Will P.D. Change Anything?
Will Lubbock police change the way they handle missing kids? "That's a great question actually," Stevens said. "Each missing person's case that we go on is evaluated on its own merits."
Stevens concluded, "No we're not going to write a policy."
"It would not have changed the outcome of Elizabeth's ultimate demise and that's unfortunate."
Copyright 2011 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved.