For two decades, one unsolved homicide has haunted Arlington police detectives past and present.Despite thousands of tips, police say they’re no closer to solving the abduction-slaying of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman. But on the anniversary of her disappearance, they say they will never give up.
“Detectives come and go,” said Lt. Mike Hollier, a 26-year veteran of the Arlington police force and a lecturer at the University of Texas-Arlington. “Some have passed away, some have retired. But someone will always be here to carry Amber’s banner.
“We absolutely believe that this case will be solved.”
Amber was abducted 20 years ago Wednesday while riding her bike outside an abandoned Winn-Dixie grocery store. She was later found dead in a drainage ditch a few miles away.
Her death gave rise to the Amber Alert system, which has been credited with saving almost 800 missing or abducted children across the country. Other countries, too, have adopted their own alerts and named them for Amber.
The alert system ensures her name won’t be forgotten. But Amber’s family and the detectives who’ve worked the case have never needed any help remembering the freckle-faced youngster.“My main thing is for everyone to remember Amber, and remember the sacrifice that she had to endure,” her mom, Donna Williams, said at a news conference here Tuesday to mark her daughter’s disappearance. “Amber desperately needs justice.”
Amber and her younger brother, Ricky, were riding bikes in a grocery-store parking lot just a few blocks from their home on Jan. 13, 1996, when a man snatched Amber off the bike and drove away with her in a black pickup.When police found her four days later, her throat had been cut. Police haven’t said publicly whether she was sexually assaulted.
“I didn’t quite understand what was going on,” Ricky Hagerman, 25, said Tuesday as tears welled in his eyes. “I just knew my sister was taken from us. She was my best friend, like a second mother.”
Police have investigated 8,000 tips about Amber’s abduction but said they are no closer to identifying a suspect than they were in 1996.
At Tuesday’s news conference, retired and current Arlington detectives said they hope someone will remember something about Amber’s abduction and come forward with that information.
Oak Farms Dairy is offering a $10,000 reward for tips leading to an arrest.
On Wednesday, law-enforcement agencies across the country will commemorate National AMBER ALERT Awareness Day.
Arlington reacted “like a small town” when police started looking for Amber, said Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson, who was the Arlington police spokesman in 1996.
“It’s almost like she became the child of everyone in Arlington,” he said. “When the terrible day came and we found her, hope and desperation turned to anger and outrage.”
One day, a massage therapist and her client came up with an idea while listening to a talk-show segment about Amber: What if people could receive alerts about kidnappings, just like they get alerts for tornadoes and thunderstorms?
Nine months after Amber’s death, radio stations and law-enforcement officials in North Texas launched AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) alerts to relay reports of kidnappings to the public.
The alerts were faxed to radio stations responsible for airing the messages as soon as they received them. Today the alerts are sent to the public through various media platforms and on cellphones.
Anderson said he’s received calls from law-enforcement officials in countries as far away as Australia and Japan, asking how they can create their own versions of the Amber Alert system.
“We’re dealing with an issue where literally seconds count,” Anderson said. “Seconds are ticking against you when a child is abducted.”
Although she is pleased with her daughter’s legacy, Williams said she is disappointed that Amber’s own case still hasn’t been solved.
“I know Amber would be very proud of (the alerts). She was always another mommy to all my children,” Williams said. “But I also want people to remember Amber — she had to sacrifice her life for the Amber –Naheed Rajwani
You heard of an amber alert, but did you know the full story behind the alert. This is one of those articles that I have shared with my students as I think they should be fully informed. I also think it’s annoying and embarrassing for those who toss out acronyms and jargon but are caught in the headlights when a well-meaning individual says “What’s does that stand for?”