TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida has AMBER alerts, Blue Alerts, Silver Alerts and Sex Offender Alerts, but starting July 1, you can now receive Purple Alerts. These notifications go out when an adult, suffering from mental, cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities is missing, but does not meet criteria for a Silver Alert.
The story behind Purple Alerts is, unfortunately, a tragic one. Back in August 2018, a Sebring man who had just moved to Port St. Lucie with his father, got out of the house in the middle of the night. Josh Marshall, 30, had a cognitive disability, was nonverbal, and walked with a lopsided gait.
"He wandered around the streets and ended up at a 7-Eleven," his mother Beverly Marshall said. "The store clerk had seen him. Other people saw him. Nobody helped. He was distraught. He was crying. He didn't have any shoes on his feet. And he was just lost."
Josh's body was later found in a pond outside a fire station. Beverly believes that, had there been some sort of alert, Josh might've been recognized and brought home safely.
Josh Marshall's mom, Beverly, spearheaded the Purple Alert initiative after Josh, who was non-verbal, left the house and was found dead in a pond a time later.
"So many times, people could have interrupted and stepped up and said, hey, you know, this is the person that they're talking about on this alert. But there was no alert," Beverly said.
She fought to create Florida Purple Alerts, teaming up with Senator Lori Berman and Representative Joe Casello. It took three years, and it was signed into law in 2021 and finally, Friday, it launched.
The Purple Alert criteria are as follows:
- The person is 18 years of age or older and does not qualify for a Silver Alert.
- Has your investigation determined the missing person: Has any combination of the following: an intellectual or developmental disability, brain injury; or another physical, mental, or emotional disability that is not related to substance abuse -and- Does not have Alzheimer’s disease or a dementia related disorder?
- Has any combination of the following: an intellectual or developmental disability, brain injury; or another physical, mental, or emotional disability that is not related to substance abuse -and-
- Does not have Alzheimer’s disease or a dementia related disorder?
- Has your law enforcement agency’s investigation concluded that the disappearance poses a credible threat of immediate danger or serious bodily harm to the missing person and they can only be returned to safety through law enforcement intervention?
- Is there a detailed description of the missing person suitable for distribution?
- Has your agency entered the missing person into the Florida Crime Information Center (FCIC)?
- Does the agency recommend activation?
Florida Purple Alerts begin July 1
Friday brought the very first Purple Alert for 52-year-old William Miller of Lake Placid.
"That's kind of like bringing it home a little more, too, because I know how that feels when your loved one goes missing," Marshall said.
Beverly hopes her son's story helps this one – and others – have a positive end.
"It's a great legacy for him, because it does represent the kind of person that he was," Marshall said. "You know, he was always helping. So, if we could help in a way, you know, we're there."
To get future Purple Alerts you can sign up by visiting https://member.everbridge.net/index/892807736727806#/signup