2003 National Missing and Exploited Children's Awards Honor Law Enforcement and Recovered Children

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Wednesday, 21 May 2003

In recognition of National Missing Children's Day, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) held its Eighth Annual Congressional Breakfast and National Missing and Exploited Children's Awards on Capitol Hill today. Federal, state and local officials, along with members of Congress were in attendance as awards were bestowed upon law enforcement personnel for exemplary efforts to reunite missing children with their families and to resolve cases of child sexual exploitation.

Celebrity guest Bryan Cranston, who plays the father "Hal" on the Fox TV comedy, "Malcolm in the Middle," was on hand to congratulate the honorees, meet the recovered children, and to speak about his own child safety video, KidSmartz, created for NCMEC. Special guest, Revé Walsh, mother of Adam Walsh whose abduction and murder led Revé and husband John Walsh to establish NCMEC, presented an award and spoke to guests about Code Adam, a child safety program named after her son.

"Every day, we are overwhelmed by the commitment and dedication shown by law enforcement officers in missing child cases and in cases involving the sexual exploitation of children," said NCMEC President and CEO Ernie Allen. "We look forward to National Missing Children's Day when we hold the awards ceremony so we can thank some of the best in law enforcement and so we can celebrate happy endings like the recovery of Tamara Brooks and Jacqueline Marris." Brooks and Marris are the two teens from Lancaster, California, whose abduction and recovery last summer gained national attention by being California's first AMBER Plan activation.

The Fraternal Order of Police and the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) partner with NCMEC each year to hold the awards on or near National Missing Children's Day, which is officially on May 25.

NCMEC's 2003 recipients included:

2003 National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year

Postal Inspector Elizabeth Bendel of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Miramar, Florida, was honored by Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL) for her investigative expertise in exposing a worldwide child pornography business and identifying several child victims.

2003 National Missing Children's Award

Special Agent Stacey L. Mitry of the FBI in San Jose, California, was honored for the safe recovery of Sara Brin, a three-year-old girl abducted at knifepoint by her non-custodial father in Paris, France. Congressman Mike Honda (CA) recognized Special Agent Mitry for the recovery.

Detective Larry A. Johnston of the Box Elder County Sheriff's Department in Brigham, Utah, was honored by Congressman Robert Bishop (UT) for the investigation and conviction of Mark S. Jensen, a notorious child predator.

Lieutenant Stephen M. Smith of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in Lancaster, California, and Senior Deputies Lawrence Thatcher and James Stratton of the Kern County Sheriff's Department in Bakersfield, California, accepted awards from Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) for the swift and successful recovery of Jacqueline Marris and Tamara Brooks.

2003 National Exploited Children's Award

Special Agent Benjamin Yen of the FBI in Oakland, California, was honored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA) for his extraordinary investigative skills and commitment in dismantling a child prostitution ring.

Assistant Attorney General Maya Guerra Gamble and Sergeant David A. Torsiello of the Texas Attorney General's Office Internet Bureau in Austin were honored for their collaborative efforts in capturing a pair of dangerous predators and successfully putting them behind bars. Senator John Cornyn (TX) recognized the officers for their work in this case.

2003 National Courage Award

NCMEC presented its fourth National Courage Award this year to Erica Pratt, a seven-year-old courageous girl from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who freed herself after being abducted and left alone in an abandoned home by chewing through the duct tape used to restrain her. Erica was honored by Congressman Robert Brady (PA) for her confidence and quick thinking.

2003 Code Adam Award

The Code Adam Award was presented to Publix, Albertson's, Dixie Land Mall in Rogers, Arkansas, and JC Penney/Eckerd Drug Store and Pharmacy for their implementation and commitment to Code ADAM, a child safety program.

Generous support from the following companies made the Awards possible: Honeywell International Inc., Philips Consumer Electronics North America, American Media, Inc., Ford Motor Company, America Online, Inc., AOL Time Warner, Inc., Canon U.S.A., Inc., Computer Associates International, Inc., The Home Depot, RadioShack Corporation, Sony Music Entertainment, Wal-Mart Stores, Yahoo!, Intrado, Seisint, Inc., Wausau Financial Systems, ADVO, Holiday Inn Select, Mr. Gershon Kekst, Mr. Martin Lerner, National Research Center for College & University Admissions, and US Airways.

NCMEC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Serving as the national clearinghouse for information and a resource center for child protection, NCMEC has worked with law enforcement on 89,599 missing child cases, resulting in the recovery of 73,351 children. For more information, please call 800.843.5678.

For more information, or to contact National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, see their website at: www.missingkids.org

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