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Betty Stover case demonstrates major drawbacks of Silver Alert's criteria system

Elizabeth "Betty" Stover

An Abilene family got the news they had been dreading late on Wednesday night when authorities informed them that their grandmother, who had been missing for 9 days, had been found dead.

Elizabeth “Betty” Stover's body was discovered around 5 p.m. on Wednesday by a rancher off of County Road 184 in the Lemons Gap area, which is southwest of Tuscola.

Stover was reported missing on May 24, three days after her family last saw her, and the last time that anybody saw Stover alive was at a south Abilene gas station on May 22.

A Silver Alert was eventually issued on May 29 after her family was finally able to gather documentation proving that Stover had dementia.

“One of the criteria for the Silver Alert program is that it's a documented mental illness,” said Joshua Ward, a detective from the Abilene Police Department's Missing Persons Unit.

Ward would not answer specific questions about Stover’s case, but he did talk about what problems can arise when authorities try to issue a Silver Alert.

“There are inevitably complications when dealing with medical records,” Ward said. “As law enforcement, under extreme circumstances, we can't often get them due to HIPAA laws, there are challenges we face to delay that.”

Authorities said that it appears that Stover got lost while driving and could not survive in the triple digit heat without food, water or shelter.

“We want to know the circumstances of where Ms. Stover was found and how she got there, when she got there.” Ward said. “There's still a lot of follow-up that needs to be done on that case.”

While no foul play is suspected in Stover's death, an autopsy is pending and the investigation into her death is still ongoing.

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