AUGUSTA — Local and state police still are looking for Fatima L. Gissentaner and her boyfriend in connection with Tuesday’s incident involving a 3-year-old girl who was reported missing by police, prompting them to send out an Amber Alert for only the second time since the program became active in 2002 in Maine.

Augusta Police Department Deputy Chief Jared Mills said Gissentaner, 26, and her boyfriend, who’s been identified only as “Dollar,” are considered persons of interest in the ongoing investigation. No charges have been filed.

“We have information as to their whereabouts and are obviously following up on a bunch of leads,” Mills said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the Augusta Police Department. “At this point we are still looking to determine what their intentions were.”

Mills said that if felony charges are filed, a warrant would be issued for the pair’s arrest and “every law enforcement agency in the country would be looking for them.” He declined to specify what charges the pair could be facing.

Lenore “Lenny” Wilson was reported missing Tuesday morning after her mother suffered a medical emergency. Mills said he could not identify the type of emergency, but the Augusta police log shows police responded to a report of an overdose on Sewall Street that morning and radio communications later in the day described Lenore’s mother as having suffered an overdose. The 3-year-old girl was believed to be with Gissentaner, who was at the apartment at the time of the overdose, for most of the day.

Mills said police were expecting Gissentaner, who is from New York and goes by the nickname “China,” to bring Lenore to the police station within a 30-minute window. When that didn’t happen, police officials became concerned and began considering the possibility that Lenore had been abducted.

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“We’re investigating this at face value, because at one point yesterday, it was our understanding that the child was in the custody of Fatima,” Mills said. “We had a conversation with (Fatima) and she promised to bring her back, and she didn’t, so we’re investigating why that transaction didn’t happen.”

Lenore was taken to the police station Tuesday night by an acquaintance of Gissentaner, her boyfriend and Lenore’s mother. Mills said the man found out that Lenore was missing when he received the Amber Alert on his cellphone.

“This individual knew the people involved, and when he became in contact with the child at some point yesterday, he immediately brought the child to the Police Department,” said Mills, who said he wouldn’t identify the man because he didn’t commit a crime. “We’re very thankful for what he did.”

Lenore is doing well, Mills said, and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services will determine who’ll care for her. He declined to say where Lenore is currently staying.

An Internet search of Gissentaner’s name doesn’t provide additional information, though Mills said they know a lot about her that may be released pending the outcome of the investigation. He declined to say whether Gissentaner has a criminal record. A check of court records in Kennebec County did not bring up any criminal record for Gissentaner.

Mills declined to give any information about the condition of Lenore’s mother, whom he declined to identify by name. Mills said Lenore has a father who lives in Augusta but declined to provide any other information about him.

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Police officials have several guidelines they can use when deciding whether to issue an Amber Alert, including whether law enforcement has reasonable belief that the child was abducted and whether it’s determined the child is in imminent danger. Mills said there were conflicting witness statements about Lenore’s well-being.

“Some of the information provided was that the child was safe, and some of the information said that the child was in danger,” the deputy chief said. “We erred on the side of caution in this case and took some of the information at face value that the child was in imminent danger and asked to activate the alert.”

Once the Augusta police decided to issue the alert, Mills said, it was about 15 minutes before the alert appeared on his cellphone. It was activated by the state police and sent out about 3:25 p.m.

The Augusta Police Department experienced some glitches upon fielding calls from the public. Mills said more than 400 tips came in, and shortly after the alert went out, their system became overwhelmed and there weren’t enough people to answer the incoming phone calls. Mills, however, said the majority of the calls weren’t active tips with information, but rather people wondering what the alert on their cellphones was about.

“I learned a bunch of things I can do better going forward,” Mills said. “If this ever happened again, we’d be more prepared to receive so many phone calls.”

The Amber Alert system was created after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and then was brutally murdered in January 1996. This was only the second Amber Alert ever issued in Maine. The first happened in November 2009 when 2-year-old Hailey Traynham was kidnapped by her father and eventually found safe in New Hampshire. The only other state that’s issued fewer Amber Alerts is Hawaii, according to a spokeswoman for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

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Since Jan. 1, 2013, Amber Alerts have been sent automatically through the Wireless Emergency Alerts program, which is a partnership between the wireless industry, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and CTIA The Wireless Association. Any WEA-enabled phone is enrolled automatically to receive Amber Alerts, imminent threat alerts and alerts from the president of the United States.

The alerts are accompanied by a unique signal and vibration. People with certain cellphone carriers can disable the Amber Alerts and imminent threat alerts, but the presidential alerts cannot be disabled.

According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 830 children have been rescued specifically because of Amber alerts as of Aug. 1, 2016, and 25 children have been rescued through Wireless Emergency Alerts.

Amber Alerts are not sent as text messages and don’t affect a person’s wireless bill. The alerts are not sent to specific cellphones; rather, they are sent to any Wireless Emergency Alert-enabled device, thus protecting the privacy of the individual cellphone owner.

Through speaking to witnesses and people involved, police have been able to determine most of Lenore’s whereabouts throughout the day Tuesday. Mills said Lenore went a few different places, but never left the state. She was discovered “on the outskirts of Augusta” before being brought to the police station.

Mills did not put a time frame on when he expects the investigation to conclude. However, he did say that he will release more information when a determination on formal charges is made.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ


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