Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said a loophole in Utah’s kidnapping laws prevents him from filing charges against a woman who allegedly kidnapped her daughter from West Valley City Elementary School last month.
Athena Venus Barker is accused of taking her biological daughter, 10-year-old Aliyah Crowder, out of her school on March 9. An Amber Alert was triggered after the alleged kidnapping, and police located Barker and Aliyah in northern Utah. (Read more about the incident here.)
Gill said Utah’s kidnapping laws prevent the District Attorney’s Office from filing kidnapping charges against a parent with visitation rights, no matter how serious the situation.
“As a parent […] the statute is pretty clear that you cannot charge them with kidnapping, even if they take the child or conceal the child or take the child away from the lawful custodial parent,” Gill said.
Although Gill’s office won’t prosecute Barker, he recommended that the West Valley City Prosecutor’s Office file misdemeanor charges of custodial interference and trespassing against Barker.
Gill plans to lobby the Utah Legislature to close the loophole.