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Police defend search efforts for NY father, toddler found shot dead in Va.

NEW YORK  — Authorities are defending their response to the suspected abduction of a 2-year-old New York boy who was found dead with his father in Virginia in an apparent murder-suicide. Suffolk County and New York State Police issued a joint statement Thursday amid criticism from Jovani Ligurgo's family for declining to issue an Amber Alert.

The agencies say they worked "quickly and diligently" to locate Jovani and were "extremely saddened" by his death.

Jovani and his 43-year-old father, John Ligurgo, were found Wednesday in a Jeep that had been set on fire behind a Raphine home. Each had a gunshot wound.

Suffolk police say they provided information to New York State Police for a possible Amber Alert, but state police said the case didn't meet the criteria for one.

The agencies say every aspect of the investigation will be thoroughly reviewed.

CBS New York reports that Jovani's mother, Maria Busone, had dropped off the boy at Ligurgo's condominium about 7 a.m. Tuesday to spend the day with his father. She alerted police Tuesday after the 43-year-old Ligurgo failed to drop the boy off at her home between 3:30 and 4 p.m., as per a family court visitation order, Suffolk police said.

Family told the station that the couple had been involved in a custody dispute.

Around the time Busone contacted police, a fire was reported at Ligurgo's home in Coram. Police responded and determined the case to be an arson and that someone had torched two beds, according to Suffolk police. Busone reportedly heard about the fire while waiting for police to respond and went to Ligurgo's home, where she was interviewed by arson detectives, and a missing-persons investigation was launched.

The mother also told police a gun was missing from the home, according to Suffolk police.

Suffolk police contacted neighboring jurisdictions about the missing father and son. Cameras later recorded Ligurgo's Jeep crossing the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, and Suffolk police notified state police in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Amber Alerts are issued only when an abducted child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death, state police said. Suffolk police said Ligurgo may have been armed with a hunting rifle, but that they had no indication that he would harm his son.

The Crime Victims Center is asking how many innocent children need to be lost before the law or criteria is changed.

"The criteria for activation for AMBER Alert has to be changed, if in this case it didn't meet that criteria," said Laura Ahearn of the group Parents for Megan's Law. "We had every element met. The offender had set his condo on fire. He had a custody hearing that was pending. They also knew he could have had a weapon and he crossed over state lines with his 2-year-old son."

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