Troopers explain response to Keith Aumavae missing persons case
Alaska State Troopers held a news conference Tuesday afternoon, 19 days since 30-year-old Keith Aumavae has been missing -- to discuss their efforts to find him.
Aumavae was last seen on October 19, outside his Palmer home. His family says he has schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder, lives on his own, checks in with them frequently and carries his iPad around "like the Bible"
Now, Aumavae and his car, a light blue 2001 Chrysler Sebring, seem to have disappeared without a trace and his iPad still at home.
"He's still missing, and whatever we've done, it isn't enough, and it's never gonna be enough until we bring him home," said AST Lt. Christopher Thompson.
Family members showed up to the Trooper Headquarter's in Anchorage Tuesday with posters and pictures but were told they couldn't be in the room during the news conference. Troopers later decided to allow two of Aumavae's siblings to sit in.
"I have empathy for the family and I can assure you, I can assure you, we have done everything humanly possible to find Mr. Keith," said AST Captain Tony April.
Troopers say they've searched his home, canvassed the neighborhood, looked at surveillance video and are currently working with Apple to get into his iPad.
"The issue, even though we're treating this as a criminal investigation, is the fact that we don't have a defined crime at this point," explained AST Sgt. Ronald Hayes.
Troopers initially denied a Silver Alert for Aumavae, then issued one day later, on November 1.
When asked what changed in the case during the time between the initial request and when Troopers decided to grant the alert, Lt. Thompson said Aumavae never met the criteria for a Silver Alert and still doesn't, but they decided to bend the rules after other efforts to locate him failed.
"In some conversations here with command folks, we decided let's try it anyway, that's basically what happened," said Lt. Thompson.
When asked how the agency decides which cases to bend the rules for on Amber and Silver Alerts, Lt. Thompson said the decision is made on a "case by case" basis.
He said the stipulation that Silver Alert subjects are "unable to meet their own needs or to seek help without assistance" meets a gray area with Aumavae's case, because even though he has mental health issues, he's capable of taking care of himself, as evidenced by the fact that he lives alone and holds a driver's license.
Lt. Thompson also said Silver Alerts are typically used immediately after someone goes missing and when Aumavae's case what brought to them, he'd already been missing for several days.
Outside of the Trooper Headquarters, Keith Aumavae's brother, Junior Aumavae, told news reporters the reasons troopers stated for the initial denial of the Silver Alert and what they were told at the time don't match up.
"After hearing what was stated inside there, they just gave the Silver Alert to my family member 'Just cuz?' I mean you can look at it, are they going 'just cuz' with our brother's search efforts?" said Junior Aumavae.
Troopers have found no evidence of foul play, but Junior Aumavae says his brother is more than just missing.
"How long are you gonna say it's a missing person until you say foul play has happened?" he questioned.
Troopers plan to step up the search with their helicopter. With The Valley being the size of the State of West Virginia, it's hard to know where to start, but they plan to begin by looking in the Jim Creek area.
Keith Aumavae has black hair and brown eyes, stands 5-foot-7-inches tall, weighs 380 pounds, and is considered a vulnerable adult. His car license plate number is KAG300.
Through donations on a GoFundMe page, the family is now able to offer a $5,000 reward for information that leads to finding him.
If you have any information, you can call an anonymous tip line at 907-290-5668.
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