Amber Alert suspect in court, KIRO 7 investigates alert system glitch

by: Henry Rosoff Updated:

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Sanda Bennatts showed very little emotion and even seemed confused at one point in a King County court room Tuesday.

Bennatts is accused of kidnapping her 6-year-old autistic son, Mason, from her mother, who has custody. Court documents indicate Bennatts “hog tied” her mother, before leading police on a chase across Western Washington that reached 95 mph at one point.

“She wasn’t stopped until Chelan County and that was only because she ran out of gas,” said the deputy prosecutor in open court.

According to court documents, Washington Child Protective Services put the 6-year-old with his grandmother because of Bennatts’ “deteriorating mental health and neglect” of her child.

But Krista Bennatts, the suspect’s cousin, argued on Sandra’s behalf.

“Sandra has never done anything like this ever,” Krista said. “She is going through a lot right now I believe she will show up for court.”

The grandmother who was tied up yesterday was released from the hospital and was reunited with Mason.  Bennatts’ bail was set at $250,000.

Even though the Amber Alert was issued before 9 a.m. Monday, the cellphone alert was delayed until 11:15 a.m.  A spokesman from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said a cellphone alert was not initially put out because the Washington State Patrol did not know the license plate number of the car Bennatts was driving.

“You want full vehicle information, including the  plate information,” Robert Hoever said.

Hoever concede that even when police figured out the plate number there was a one-hour delay in pushing out the alert.

“We thought it went out, but we checked on it, and found out there was a technology glitch, and it did not go out to the public as we thought it had,” he said, adding that the problem is now corrected. 

People also kept getting alerts after Mason was rescued. Hoever said extra alerts happen occasionally because of issues with the actual cellphones and wireless networks, not the alert system. 

He said people who are getting multiple alerts or no alerts at all should call the NCMEC or their provider so the issues can be resolved.