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Silver Alert system to launch Jan. 1

Posted: December 21, 2012 6:00 p.m.
Updated: December 21, 2012 6:00 p.m.

A decade after California launched its Amber Alert system it now joins some 30 other states by launching a Silver Alert program Jan. 1, 2013.

The program, which engages the public’s help in searching for seniors who are reported missing, requires that law enforcement request the California Highway Patrol to activate a Silver Alert if the person is 65 years of age or older and certain conditions exits – such as the person is believed to be in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, weather conditions or other factors that indicate the person may be in peril.

Such a system may have helped the families of three older drivers search for their loved ones who, after inexplicably far away from their known destinations, crashed in the past year.

Thomas George Dennis, 87, left Arleta to have his taxes done in Sun Valley. Two days after his appointment, he and his car were found off a remote Acton road. His car was found in a shallow ravine off Escondido Canyon Road and Highway 14.

California Highway Patrol Lt. Antonio Caballero, who was investigating Dennis’ death, believed Dennis may have crawled out of his car and at some point died of his injuries.

“We think he was on the roadway for at least 12 hours before he was found,” Caballero said.

A strikingly similar event occurred in September 2011 when the body of Melvin Gelfand, of West Los Angeles, was found at the bottom of a ravine off Lake Hughes Road. He had been missing for two weeks.

The 88-year-old’s wife said he had planned to take a bus from Hawthorne to a casino in San Diego, but it appeared he went north instead of south and for some reason drove his car off a remote canyon road.

Gelfand’s body and car was found at the bottom of a ravine off Lake Hughes Road, only after the family of David La Vau, 67, went missing from Lake Hughes at the same location.

La Vau, who lived in Lake Hughes, survived a week eating bugs and leaves before family members, alarmed by his disappearance, found him with the help of a private detective.

The Silver Alert program is modeled after the Amber Alert program, the program which alerts people to look for missing children. Since it was launched in July 2002, the Amber Alert program has led to the safe recovery of 234 children since July 2002.


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