It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. 9-year-old Amber Hagerman had just gotten out of school for the day and wanted to go ride her bike around an abandoned grocery store parking lot near her grandparents’ home in Arlington, TX. Amber and her brother Ricky rode their bikes around the lot for a while. Ricky decided he wanted to go home, but Amber insisted on staying behind to ride around a little more. It was still broad daylight when a black pickup truck pulled up to the girl. She kicked and screamed as the driver dragged her into the vehicle before speeding off. That was the last time Amber Hagerman was ever seen alive.
It began to get late and Amber’s grandfather drove up to the parking lot to take Amber home. There was no trace of the little girl.
Four days later a security guard stumbled upon the nude body of a child in a creek behind an apartment complex. The apartment complex was less than five miles from the abandoned grocery store parking lot Amber was last seen riding her bike at.
An autopsy revealed that Amber’s kidnapper had kept her alive for two days. She had been beaten and sexually assaulted before her throat was slashed and her body was dumped behind the apartment complex. In spite of the work of nearly 50 police officers and federal agents, as well as 8,000 caller tips her case remains unsolved.
January 12, 2016 marks the 20-year anniversary of Amber Hagerman’s murder and it would seem that investigators are no closer to cracking the case today as they were 20 years ago. There was only one witness to ever provide any information on the abduction. Thousands of man hours were spent on the case and dozens of leads were followed, but still investigators come up short.
The unsolved murder of Amber Hagerman may not be a story you know, but her case has resulted in saving the lives of nearly 700 children. After her death in 1996, talks of setting up an alert system to notify the public of missing children was in the works. First implemented in her home state of Texas, as well as Georgia, Arkansas and Hawaii, the AMBER alert system eventually caught on and became a nationwide service which broadcasts child abductions on radio networks, television stations, internet, and more recently social media, lottery machines and cellphones.
Amber’s parents also fought for tougher laws on sex offenders. With the help of other members of the community, Amber’s parents were able to organize People Against Sex Offenders – P.A.S.O. – which later pushed Congress to pass the Amber Hagerman Child Protection Act. Bill Clinton signed the bill and as a result the national sex offender registry was born. Anyone convicted of a sex crime must now be registered within this database.
Investigators are still holding out hope that someone out there has valuable information pertinent to the case. Even though it’s been 20 years since Amber’s death, Arlington police still receive a handful of tips related to the case monthly and they are certain that eventually one of them will lead them on the right track to cracking this case once and for all.