Arlington, TX

Abduction and Murder of Child in 1996 was the Inspiration for the Amber Alert System

True Crime Mysteries (Megan)

Amber Hagerman was only riding her bike alone for a few minutes when abducted from a parking lot
Amber HagermanPhoto byArlington Police Department

On January 13, 1996, in Arlington, Texas, Amber Hagerman was riding her new pink and white bicycle she had just gotten for Christmas. In the parking lot of an abandoned Winn-Dixie grocery store, the nine-year-old Girl Scout was with her five-year-old little brother, Ricky.

They were playing down the road from their grandmother’s house when apparently Ricky remembered they were only supposed to go around the block and headed back home. Amber stayed and continued to play around the parking lot. It was a Saturday, and they were at their grandparents' that day because their mother was being interviewed for a local news special about families that successfully got off welfare and rejoined the workforce. 

Amber and Ricky left their grandparent’s home around 3:10 PM, with Ricky returning home a while after without his sister. The family soon went looking for Amber, and when they arrived at the parking lot, they saw a handful of police officers surrounding Amber’s bike. They were told that “someone in the community saw something.” Amber had been abducted.
Amber's BikePhoto byArlington Police Department

A witness, Jim Kevil, seventy-eight at the time, and a retired police officer, said he saw Amber riding alone when he saw a black pick-up truck. “He pulled up, jumped out, and grabbed her. When she screamed, I figured the police ought to know about it, so I called them.”

Jim gave a description of the abductor. He said it was a man, caucasian or Hispanic, in his 20s or 30s, shorter than 6 feet, medium build with dark hair. He was driving a black pick-up truck with no markings or chrome and seemed to be in clean working condition. He noted the time of the abduction as 3:18 PM, and Amber had only been alone for a few minutes.

Law enforcement, the FBI, and locals began a massive search for Amber, and her abduction made national news. But despite the nationwide attention, no other witnesses ever came forward to identify the man or truck.

Four days later, a man was walking his dog when he saw something in a creek. When he looked closer, he found it was a body lying face down in the water. Police arrived at the scene, and the body was identified as the missing nine-year-old, Amber Hagerman.

Amber’s body was found less than four miles from where she was abducted. She was found completely naked except for a sock on her left foot, and her throat had been cut. Police believe that she was washed down the creek as there had been considerable rainfall the night before she was discovered.

Police worked hard to find anything on Amber’s murder, but there was little evidence. It was later discovered that she had been alive for at least two days after her abduction. Making police believe that someone might have seen something. Also, due to the circumstances of the abduction, they believe that Amber was targeted and may have been stalked prior to her being taken.

Since Amber’s death, they have followed over 7000 possible leads.

There was a laundry mat next to the abandoned grocery store where Amber was abducted. Authorities know this area had many Hispanic people who may have felt uncomfortable talking to police at the time. Police have said in more recent press releases that they do not care about legal status; they just want any information on Amber and that it can be given anonymously and urge anyone with information to come forward. They want justice for her family.

In a 2021 press conference, it was released after all this time. That authorities did have one piece of evidence with DNA. Police have stated that they would not reveal the evidence as only the killer would know, and they had planned to test that evidence through more modern means later that year.

Donna Williams, Amber’s mother, said, “To Amber’s killer, I’m asking you today, please turn yourself in. Give Amber justice. Amber needs justice, deeply.”

It’s been over 25 years since Amber was abducted and killed. Police have never stopped looking for her killer, and she has had a significant impact not only on Arlington but across the country.

Amber’s case was the inspiration for the Amber Alert System suggested by a local woman, Diane Simone wanted to help in the search efforts but didn’t know how best to assist. She had an idea to utilize radio stations and news broadcasting to amplify missing or abducted children cases. Using the existing systems that are used to alert to weather warnings or civil defense alerts. It has been called several names in honor of other missing children in other states. It is now called The Amber Alert System nationally and even internationally, with other countries adopting the system.

In the USA, the amber alert has saved 1114 children.

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