It’s been 21 years since 9-year-old Amber Hagerman disappeared while riding her bike in Arlington, Texas. She was found deceased four days after her abduction, behind a nearby apartment complex, with knife wounds across her neck. Amber’s killer is still at large, but detectives are determined to keep fighting until the suspect is behind bars.
On January 13, 1996, Amber rode her bike around an abandoned store in Arlington with her 5-year-old little brother, Ricky. At some point, Ricky decided to ride his bike home, but Amber stayed behind, pedaling away around the empty store’s parking lot. While she circled around and rode her bike up and down the empty lot, a white or Hispanic man driving a dark-colored pickup truck approached her. Jim Kevil, 78, was working in his back yard when witnessed someone grab Amber, push her in the truck, and drive off.
“I saw [Amber] riding up and down. She was by herself. I saw this pickup. He pulled up, jumped out and grabbed her. When she screamed, I figured the police ought to know about it, so I called them.”
Arlington police arrived within minutes, but it was too late. Amber was long gone. Although stranger abductions are rare, they are the most difficult cases to solve. The FBI joined in the search efforts, but for days, the clues led to dead ends.
Detective Ben Lopez is current investigator in kidnapping & murder of Amber Hagerman. We field 2-3 leads a month. pic.twitter.com/ck0C5FVZb1
— Arlington Police, TX (@ArlingtonPD) January 12, 2016
Detective Ben Lopez of the Arlington Texas Police Department was one of the officers who helped in the search efforts. In 2016, he recalled the frantic search for Amber, and how volunteers and authorities alike, combed through the entire city.
“For those first few days, we spent all of our extra time looking,” Lopez told NBC. “It was like if you weren’t on another call, you were actively looking for her. We were looking everywhere in the city.”
Four days into the search, a man casually walking his dog stumbled upon what appeared to be a deceased child, lying nude and face-down in a creek bed behind the Forest Hill Apartments. The apartment complex was only a few miles from where Amber was kidnapped.
An autopsy report confirmed that the deceased child was indeed Amber. The coroner reported that she was likely kept alive for at least two days and repeatedly sexually assaulted. Her official cause of death was “cut wounds to the throat,” according to Arlington Police spokesperson, Dee Anderson. The death was ruled a homicide.
The AMBER Alert is Created
Days after learning that Amber was found deceased, a woman named Diana Simone, who didn’t know Amber or her family, called into a local Fort Worth radio station and suggested they broadcast when a child is abducted, similar to the way they would broadcast severe weather alerts.
— The News & Observer (@newsobserver) January 13, 2016
“They were saying Amber was taken at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, thrown in a pickup truck and driven somewhere, and that nobody saw anything. I’m sorry, that’s not possible,” Simone recalled. “The problem was not that people didn’t see them, it’s that they didn’t know what they were seeing.”
Simone’s simple request spurred an idea that would later turn into the AMBER Alert, a voluntary program in which broadcasters partner with law enforcement and state transportation officials to spread the word regarding abducted children. The program initially began locally in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but the idea was quickly adopted throughout the nation, becoming one of the biggest programs for missing and abducted kids.
By the end of 2015, the AMBER Alert helped find and rescue at least 800 children. The AMBER Alert plans works in all 50 states in the nation, as well as more than 20 countries worldwide.
Amber’s Killer: The Hunt Continues
To date, Amber’s killer remains unknown. Since her disappearance, detectives have went through thousands of leads, some hot, but they never turned up anything that would help solve the mystery. Regardless, Lopez vows to keep the case open and continue fighting until they’ve captured the person responsible for senselessly taking a loving little girl from her family and brutally killing her.
If you or anyone you know have information on the person or persons responsible for Amber’s murder, contact 911 immediately or Detective Lopez at 817-459-5373. You can also submit tips to 817-469-TIPS.
Detective Lopez told Crime Online that Oak Dairy Farms $10,000 reward is still current and being offered to anyone with information that leads to the capture of Amber Hagerman’s killer.
[Feature Image (Amber Hagerman): Handout]