Family members of a five-year-old who was savagely murdered by a teenager and an adult accomplice are grappling with why authorities refused to issue an amber alert that could have saved their little boy.
Prince McCree was found ‘blood soaked, bound, and gagged in the fetal position’ on October 26, just one day after his disappearance from a multifamily home.
Erik Mendoza, 15, and David Pietura, 27, are accused of beating and stabbing the little boy to death, then telling police they didn’t know where he was.
Police sent out a ‘critically missing alert’ to media outlets upon Prince’s disappearance, but they didn’t issue an Amber Alert because the little boy didn’t ‘meet the criteria’.
Wisconsin Senator LaToya Johnson said family members are struggling to come to terms with the child’s horrific death and said she recalls them saying: ‘If this was a little white boy, more would be done’.
Prince McCree, 5, was found ‘blood soaked, bound, and gagged in the fetal position’ in a Milwaukee dumpster
David Pietura , 27, (pictured) and Erik Mendoza, 15, have been charged in his death after being accused of taking turns beating the boy with a golf club before dumping his body
Critics – including Senator Johnson – are now questioning whether the criteria for Amber Alerts is too strict.
Wisconsin’s Amber Alert program requires the missing child to be 17 or younger and in danger of serious bodily harm or death.
The state requires that ‘initiating agency must have enough descriptive information about the child, the suspect, and/or the suspect vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast alert will help locate the child,’ according to the DOJ website.
Johnson believes that Justice Department may have denied the Amber Alert request because there was no suspect description or suspected vehicle involved to include in the alert.
The Senator – who lives nearby the family – said: ‘This tragedy is just horrific and sad in all proportions. His family, they are taking it extremely hard. They’re struggling.
‘I found out that one would not be issued because he didn’t qualify. That pissed me off. Something is wrong when a 5-year-old does not qualify for an Amber Alert,’ Johnson said.
Wisconsin residents have been calling for a re-consideration of Amber Alert requirements since the disappearance of 10-year-old Lily Peters in April 2022.
Lily was killed and raped by her 14-year-old cousin Carson Peters-Berger in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
A Chippewa Falls resident – Eric Henry – started a petition after the tragic murder that asked legislators to make a ‘Lily Alert’ for cases that don’t meet the exact requirement for an Amber Alert.
Henry said: ‘We can do better as a community and must be more proactive. We need an alert with less regulations around it so we can respond quicker to missing children.’
The Justice Department have not revealed exactly why an Amber Alert was not issued the day that Prince went missing.
Pietura was seen on surveillance footage carrying a garbage bag believed to contain Prince’s remains
Police found Prince’s battered body near the home he and his family shared with several other people, including Pietura and Mendoza.
Court documents say the little boy’s mother last saw him the morning of October 25. He was sick, so she kept him home from school.
The boy ‘wanted to go into the basement of the residence to play video games,’ which he frequently did with Pietura.
The mother assumed the boy was playing with the 27-year-old but when she checked the basement later, it was dark and empty.
A detective searched the basement and spotted ‘blood on the cement floor near carpet runners.’
Pietura, who was down there at the time, immediately tried to move the runners to cover the stains. He claimed he and Mendoza had roughhoused earlier, and the blood came from Mendoza’s nose.
However, in the portion of the basement that was Pietura’s bedroom, the detective ‘observed more suspected blood on a white comforter covering a chair, as well as on a blanket that was used as a divider.’
Then, another detective noticed ‘a large amount of blood on Pietura’s right leg. He was arrested for obstruction.
Authorities executed a search warrant with a K9 team.
The K9 ‘alerted to the odor of decomposition at the base of the basement stairs where three sweatshirts were hanging from the back of a door.’
One of the sweatshirts was spotted on surveillance video, as Pietura carried the garbage bag containing the boy’s remains.
Police recovered a butterfly knife, which Mendoza – the homeowner’s son – used to stab three different people in a separate incident
McCree mother last saw him the morning of October 25. He stayed home from school and went to the basement of their multi-family home to play video games with Pietura, who also lived there
After police found several bloodstains in the bedroom, Pietura admitted that Mendoza had ‘talked for some time about wanting to kill someone.’
The teen ‘never liked’ Prince and discussed wanting to kill the boy, documents say.
Pietura also confessed to witnessing Mendoza choking Prince in the bedroom until he was motionless.
‘Defendant Pietura did not intervene to stop Defendant Mendoza at any point,’ the documents read, noting that he left the room at one point but returned shortly after.
Once the child was motionless, Pietura said: ‘We got to clean it up.’ Using thick black duct tape, he and Mendoza bound Prince’s hands and feet, documents say.
They stuffed rags into Prince’s mouth and covered them in tape to quiet his screams in case he was still alive.
When Mendoza noticed the child regaining consciousness, he allegedly said: ‘We need to shut him up.’
Pietura punched the boy repeatedly in an effort to silence him. When that didn’t work, Mendoza stomped on his head repeatedly.
When he ‘continued to whimper,’ Pietura grabbed a 30-pound barbell and dropped it on the child’s head.
Believing that he was dead, Pietura and Mendoza placed his body in multiple garbage bags. When he began to make noise again, the pair took turns striking him in the head with a golf club.
When Prince’s mother checked the basement later, the lights were off and it appeared empty
Pietura attempted to hide bloodstains on the ground and claimed he and Mendoza were ‘roughhousing’ earlier, resulting in a bloody nose
Police recovered a ‘black-handled butterfly knife’ that Mendoza confirmed was used in three separate incidents.
When the teen was arrested, he denied hurting Prince ‘in any way.’ He later admitted to strangling the child and stabbing three other people the same day.
‘Defendant Mendoza admitted to being bored, going outside and stabbing the first victim in the back,’ the complaint reads.
‘The Defendant wanted to stab someone badly, but felt bad after committing the stabbing.’
When asked what he would say to the stabbing victims, Mendoza allegedly said, ‘I’m sorry, but you are alive.’
The teen appeared at a juvenile court hearing on October 31, where Prince’s father told him tearfully: ‘You did this to my baby. Erik, you broke us.’
Pietura and Mendoza are not allowed to contact each other or the victim’s family. They are charged with first-degree intentional homicide, repeated physical child abuse causing death and hiding a corpse.
The 27-year-old was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Monday but was a no-show, as he still doesn’t have a public defender.
Mendoza is expected to appear in juvenile court November 28.