SHARPSVILLE, Pa. (WKBN) – After learning an 8-month-old had been kidnapped in Sharpsville over the weekend, police activated an Amber Alert – a decision that helped them find the baby and suspect in under an hour.
On Saturday afternoon, Sharpsville Police responded to a homicide at Georgetown South Apartments, where they found 28-year-old Amanda Downs dead in a second-story bedroom.
Downs’ baby daughter, Ariella Downs, was missing. Police said that the suspect and baby’s father, 36-year-old Antonio Velazquez-Rupert, took the child and left the apartment.
Shortly after arriving on the scene, police issued an Amber (America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert.
“Within 38 to 39 minutes after the Amber Alert was issued, the suspect was located in Reading, Pennsylvania with the 8-month-old child,” said Sharpsville Police Chief Chris Hosa.
Police officers in Pennsylvania go through mandatory training on the Amber Alert system.
“Whenever there’s an abducted or missing child, every state has an Amber Alert division. Ours is run by the Pennsylvania State Police,” said Sharon Police Chief Gerry Smith.
The PSP then posts the alert on every possible platform.
“They get it out and it goes over phones, it goes over roadside billboards, it goes over TV, radio stations,” Smith said.
Hosa said the purpose of an Amber Alert is to notify the community when something like this happens.
“It gives them the opportunity to call in and report anything they see,” he said. “That’s what we ended up having. We received several calls, we received several calls from the community trying to give information or trying to get information.”
A close friend of Velazquez-Rupert’s family said that once they got the Amber Alert, they acted immediately.
“The head of this household let [police] know right away where she thought he was going. It was Reading, that’s where he’s from, that’s where his family lives.”
Under an hour later, police had Velazquez-Rupert in custody. Baby Ariella was safe.
Police called this a success, but said it couldn’t have happened without the combined efforts of several police departments and the community.
“It was that cooperation and all of those resources coming together that allowed us to achieve this much progress in the investigation. It was amazing,” Hosa said.
Hosa said the murder has Sharpsville’s close-knit community shaken. The borough hasn’t seen a homicide in over a decade.
“It affects the whole community, it really does,” Hosa said. “Being that it’s so close-knit, when something like this happens, it is a shock. It’s a shock to everyone.”
Velazquez-Rupert, who has a long criminal history, is charged with homicide, kidnapping and custody interference. He is being held in the Berks County Jail.The coroner’s report on Amanda Downs was scheduled to be released Monday, but there is no word yet on the results. Stay with WKBN 27 First News on air and online at WKBN.com for that information.