LUBBOCK, TX - A Lubbock family is asking local and state lawmakers to reconsider current policies and procedures after their loved one was kidnapped and murdered by a close friend.
15-year-old Elizabeth Ennen was babysitting for Humberto Salinas Jr. on the night of January 5th, 2011. Salinas Jr. admitted to kidnapping the Monterey High School student from the Carriage House Inn. Her body was found a few weeks later just a few miles northeast of Shallowater. She had been strangled.
The aggravated kidnapping charges against Salinas Jr. were dropped when he agree to a life long sentence without the possibility of parole, for capital murder charges.
Ennen's family said they had several issues with the way Lubbock police handled Elizabeth's case from the beginning.
On the day she was reported missing, LPD listed her as and endangered runaway. Her status was not changed to an endangered missing person until almost three weeks later, the same day Salinas Jr. was charged with her kidnapping.
Current Lubbock Police Chief, Greg Stevens, was the Public Information Officer in 2011. He said there was not enough evidence to support the argument that Elizabeth had been taken against her will. He said it's a tough call to make, but one he stands by to this day.
"If we receive the information that we think the child ran away or left on there own, or that they were abducted, or whatever," Chief Stevens said. "First thing we've got to look at is what leads do we have to follow, and if there are no leads to follow. Well we don't really know where to start looking right away."
Court records show police were mislead by Salinas Jr. during most of the investigation. He inserted himself into the case as a concerned friend, turning the attention off of himself and onto his son, who Elizabeth had previously dated.
Records also show, Elizabeth, like 74% of missing persons cases, was dead within just a few hours of her abduction.
The tragedy took a toll on her family. Her mother, Virginia Ennen, her brothers, Kevin and Nicholas, and her aunt, Mary Gomez. All of them have taken an active role in helping other families across Texas when similar tragedies occur.
Now Virginia Ennen and Gomez have turned their attention to local and state policies.
"You should still take the opportunity after a situation like this to re-evaluate policies and see what worked, what didn't work," Gomez said.
"We certainly reviewed all of our policies," Chief Stevens said. "We looked at our protocols. We wanted to look and see if there is anything we could do different to have had a different outcome, and there is nothing that would have changed the ultimate outcome in that particular case."
Chief Stevens said some policies have been change but not because of Ennen's case.
The family said their biggest concerns come from the initial report. They said someone with more extensive training should have been the person to prioritize Ennen's case.
"We would like either a supervisor to be called or a juvenile detective to be called," Gomez said.
"For us every report is reviewed by a supervisor," Chief Stevens responded.
In Lubbock, Chief Stevens said it is standard practice for a supervisor to review all cases, but that might not be a requirement at all departments across Texas. He said he would support the idea to implement that change state wide.
As mentioned previously, the Ennen family was not happy with the decision to classify Elizabeth as a runaway.
"When it comes to either children under the age of 18 or even our young adults 25 and under," Gomez said. "What is the general consensus is they are usually listed as missing by choice or the ones under 18 are listed as runaways more often than not. Not in every case but more often than not."
Gomez said the situation should be taken more seriously at first, until it can be proven the child is a runaway and not a missing person.
That is an unrealistic goal said Chief Stevens.
"If we're going to treat each one like a missing endangered and assign 10 officers to just look for that person," Chief Stevens said. "We literally, and no department anywhere has enough man power to do that. You take each case on its own merits, and you cant apply a blanket policy to it."
Representative John Frullo has had conversations with Ennen's family on what they can do at the state level. He previously passed Alicia's Law, a bill protecting people from human trafficking, but he said he would like to protect missing persons of all types.
"A lot like emergency situations time at the start is critical," Representative Frullo said. "We need to find the most information as quick as we can to help rescue that child or save a life. On the law side, what were doing is making it to where we can get better information quicker and get it disseminated, and that's what we will continue to do."
He, like the Ennen family, believe education in our communities is a good place to start.
"It starts with the family unit," Representative Frullo said. "Then it goes on up and works with local law enforcement, the state laws the federal laws. We need to make sure that people are aware of what's going on, parents are aware."