New York

Long Island Mom Demands Answers After Toddler Allegedly Kidnapped, Killed by Dad: ‘This Could Have Been Prevented'

No Amber Alert had been issued for 2-year-old Jovani Ligurgo

What to Know

  • A 2-year-old boy allegedly kidnapped by his father on Long Island Tuesday was found dead with his dad in a car in Virginia the next day
  • The boy's grieving mother said Thursday she believes an Amber alert could have changed the outcome
  • New York State Police and Suffolk Police maintain that an Amber alert wasn't warranted, saying there was no evidence the boy was in danger

The grieving mother of a Long Island toddler who was apparently kidnapped and killed by his father Wednesday says she can't understand why state police never issued an Amber alert for her missing son. 

"This could have been prevented, it really could have been prevented," Maria Busone said in tears, angry because she believes the system that was supposed to protect her 2-year-old son Jovani failed him. 

"Somebody needs to be held accountable for this. Somebody does," she told News 4 outside her home Thursday, where loved ones wept as they remembered how the boy loved cars, playing with blocks and going on swings. 

Jovani Ligurgo was reported missing when he wasn't returned to his mother -- who has custody of the boy -- at their predetermined drop-off time in Smithtown Tuesday afternoon. She then learned there had been a fire at the boy's father's house.

Authorities said the boy's father, John Ligurgo, who has no criminal record, left the state in his black Jeep Grand Cherokee with Jovani, possibly with a hunting rifle. Just before 8 a.m. Wednesday, police in Rockbridge County, Virginia, were called to a yard for a report of a car smoking and possibly on fire, according to authorities there.

The bodies of the father and son were found inside the SUV.

"For a father to do this and then drive halfway down the East Coast to come to this conclusion is very tragic," said Rockbridge County Police Captain Tony McFaddin.

No Amber Alert was ever issued for the boy.

In a joint statement Thursday, New York State Police and Suffolk County Police said, "While circumstances did not trigger an AMBER Alert based on the established criteria, the investigation did not stop there. Both agencies continued to investigate throughout the night and morning to determine the whereabouts of both individuals... The priority of all involved was to locate the child and father, and ensure their safe return."

Busone vehemently disagreed.

"No matter what, an Amber alert almost definitely could have made this outcome completely different," she said. That Ligurgo allegedly set his home on fire, and that he was believed to be traveling with a rifle should were ample evidence that her son was in jeopardy.

"There were too many things that pointed in a direction that this should have been, 'immediately go find him.' That should have been no. 1 priority," she said. 

According to the New York state Amber Alert site, an alert is issued when a child is abducted and thought to be in danger of serious bodily harm or death. The site adds that in some cases, alerts may not be practical if available information is not specific enough or an extended period of time has passed since a disappearance.

Amber request denials aren't unusual. State police say since 2016, law enforcement agencies have requested Amber alerts 119 times, but only 13 have been issued. In those cases, 96 kids were returned safely; two were found dead. 

New York State Police and Suffolk Police say they'll review the steps and guidelines that were taken to ensure that best practices were followed.  

"We want to reassure the public that every aspect of this investigation will be thoroughly reviewed. Our number one priority is to provide for the safety and security of our residents that we serve," they said, noting that they've worked closely on "countless cases," and "remain committed to continuing our close partnership." 

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