AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas lawmakers are closing the gap between missing children and seniors.
Two years after Houston-area teenager Cayley Mandadi was raped and murdered, the state is expanding its Amber Alert system to include adults through a CLEAR Alert.
State Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Galveston, authored House Bill 1769 and said the legislation was set in motion about a year ago when he met with Mandadi’s mother Alison Steele and her husband at a coffee shop to hear their story.
“She asked me: ‘Will you help? Would you take the initiative, and as my representative would you see if you could change the law so that another family doesn’t have to go through this?’” Bonnen said.
The law goes into effect Sept. 1 and expands the Amber Alert system for adults from ages of 18 and 65 that were abducted and deemed by law enforcement to be in imminent danger of bodily injury or death.
According to court documents, the 19 year-old Mandadi had been dating her boyfriend Mark Howerton for around a month when the two decided to go to the Mala Luna music festival on Oct. 31, 2017 in San Antonio. While at the festival, Mandadi reportedly ran into her ex-boyfriend which caused an argument between her and Howerton.
After the run-in, the couple left the festival in Howerton’s car.
Mandadi’s friends said she was forcefully taken against her will by Howerton, but because she was 19 an Amber Alert could not be issued in her disappearance.
According to Howerton’s version of events, the two made up in the car and agreed to have consentual, “rough” sex at a gas station on their way to Houston.
Both had taken ecstasy and drank throughout the weekend.
Shortly after, Mandadi complained she didn’t feel well before falling asleep without putting her clothes back on in the front seat of Howerton’s car.
Howerton said he continued to drive to Houston with Mandadi sleeping in the front passenger seat, but at some point after driving through the town of Luling he noticed she wasn’t breathing. He told authorities he administered CPR and when he realized he wasn’t going to be able to revive her, he dropped her off at a nearby hospital, and drove off.
Medical staff found Mandadi naked from the waist down with bruises on her neck and thighs consistent with sexual assault.
Mandadi died that night and Howerton was charged with her murder in March of 2018.
Bonnen said the CLEAR Alert Stytem, officially named the Coordinated Law Enforcement Adult Rescue System, will be very extensive and allow businesses and the public to play a role in missing person cases.
“It goes through all law enforcement, it goes through the independent bankers association so that bank staff are alert should they see a suspicious vehicle, or individual coming through a drive through or into the bank,” Bonnen said. “It is also broadcast out by the lottery commission at service stations.”
Bonnen said the National Weather service will also send out alerts to peoples’ cell phones.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said the new system will help bridge the gaps between Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts, which cover missing children and seniors.
“We’re looking forward to another category and no doubt we’ll see other lives rescued over the next several months in that regard,” McCraw said.
McCraw said the Texas Joint Crimes Information Center, or the Texas Fusion Center, will handle CLEAR Alerts as well as Amber, Silver and Blue alerts — which covers criminals who have killed or injured local, state or federal law enforcement officers.