CRESTVIEW — 22 days have passed since Emmanuel Menz, an autistic 3-year-old, was kidnapped during his birth parents' supervised visit with a state Department of Children and Families representative.


CRESTVIEW — 22 days have passed since Emmanuel Menz, an autistic 3-year-old, was kidnapped during his birth parents' supervised visit with a state Department of Children and Families representative. 



Crestview police have enlisted help from the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, but friends and supporters believe they are no closer to finding the child.



Missing case worker 



Karl Menz and Virginia Lynch had no custodial rights to Emmanuel March 6 when they fled a South Ferdon Boulevard Burger King with him after a supervised visit, Crestview police said.



The incident might have been avoided if the assigned caseworker, with the Chautauqua Offices of Psychotherapy and Evaluation in DeFuniak Springs, hadn't gone to the restroom.



The COPE center employee, who has been placed on administrative leave, shouldn't have left Emmanuel alone with the couple, according to DCF. "During a supervised visit, the child is supposed to be supervised at all times," Damonica Rivas, a northwest Florida DCF spokesperson, said.



An internal investigation is underway, a COPE center spokesperson said.



Few leads



Menz and Lynch rented a 2013 Ford F250 U-Haul van with an Arizona Tag of AE86502 and an identifying number of BE5700R, which should be clearly displayed on all sides of the vehicle, police said. Other than that, few leads have been reported.



Last week, Crestview police stated that the couple may frequent campgrounds. In addition, “They ... may be seen in grocery stores, truck stops, convenience stores, pharmacies, restaurants, specifically fast food restaurants,” a CPD news release stated.



But some Crestview area residents believe that could describe just about anybody.



“Thanks for letting us know they might possibly be trying to blend in with society,” Robert Damon Bradley commented on crestviewbulletin.com.



No Amber Alert



Meanwhile, a number of local residents and missing children’s advocates are wondering why there has been no Amber Alert in connection with the case.



“We requested multiple times,” Crestview Police Lt. Andrew Schneider said in an email. “It was declined by (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement) because no one observed them actually leaving in a vehicle.”



A Missing Child Alert is in effect, but Emmanuel’s situation did not meet Amber Alert requirements, FDLE public information officer Samantha Andrews said.



“We did not have enough information to broadcast as an Amber Alert, and there was no sign of violence in the abduction,” she said in an email. “To meet the criteria of an Amber Alert, the parent(s) must exhibit violence in the taking, and that did not occur in the Menz case.”



Jennifer McNeil, a Groton, Ct., resident and children’s rights advocate who co-manages the “Missing Persons: A Voice for Missing and Abducted People” Facebook page, believes a case could be made for Emmanuel, or “Manny,” as friends and family call him.



“How is this child not in danger?” McNeil said.



Menz lost custody of Emmanuel about six months ago “due to (an) abuse case,” a Crestview Police Department call record states.



“Any time a parent takes the rights of a child away from him or her by taking them away from the safety and comfort of their home, they are violating that child’s rights,” she said.



While lawmen look for more leads, supporters are doing their part to help bring Emmanuel home.



Baker resident Pam Holster Flores set up a “Bring Manny Home” Facebook Page shortly after the kidnapping. She regularly updates the page with information and printable fliers.



It’s all so that people consider Manny’s welfare, she said.



“I am not related to Emmanuel, nor have I ever had the pleasure of meeting him,” Flores said in an email to the News Bulletin. “I do, however, know the foster father. I created the page because this child belongs to our community. And without the help of our community, he will continue sleeping in the backseats of cars and eating cold beans from a can.”



As the days, hours, minutes and seconds pass, she knows the outcome has been more grim in other missing person cases.



And she knows, with no Amber Alert, how much the local, regional and national media could help.



“I was watching a documentary ... on Adam Walsh,” she said. “His father, John Walsh stated, ‘A couple of days after Adam went missing, the news media stopped covering it, until they found his severed head in a canal. Then it became news again.”



WANT TO HELP?



See www.facebook.com/helpfindmanny to support the effort in finding Emmanuel Menz.



Editor's Note: An earlier version of this report included a subhead titled "Missing social worker." A more accurate term, in this case, is "case worker."



Email News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown, follow him on Twitter or call 850-682-6524.



Email News Bulletin Editor Thomas Boni, follow him on Twitter or call 850-682-6524.