Skip to content

The Unsolved Murder of Amber Hagerman

The Unsolved Murder of Amber Hagerman

Case File Overview

On the afternoon of January 13th, 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman went on a bike ride with her 5-year-old brother Ricky. To make the most of the warm winter day in Arlington, Texas, they headed to an abandoned grocery store parking lot that had a bike ramp many kids in the neighbourhood used.

Amber and Ricky spent time playing in the parking lot. And after a while, Ricky decided to head back home, leaving his sister to enjoy cycling on her own.

Minutes later, Amber was abducted.

Four days after Amber’s kidnapping, a man walking his dog stumbled upon her body in a creek behind Forest Hills Apartments, an apartment complex less than five miles from the parking lot where Amber had last been seen riding her bike.

An autopsy later revealed that Amber had been kept alive for two days after being taken. She had been beaten and sexually assaulted before her throat was cut and her body was tossed into the creek.

Amber’s murder remains unsolved.

Amber Hagerman

Image of murder victim Amber Hagerman
Source: NBC News

Case File Theories

There is only one real theory in this case: Amber was kidnapped by a stranger. 78-year-old retired machinist Jim Kevil witnessed Amber’s abduction from his backyard.

Amber was riding her bike alone in the parking lot when the opportunistic killer jumped out of his black or dark blue pick-up truck and grabbed the little girl. Jimmie stated Amber “screamed once and was kicking” when she was hauled into the truck.

Jimmie described Amber’s kidnapper as “a white or Hispanic male aged 25-40, under 6 feet tall, [with a] medium build.”

After Jimmie called the police, they were on the scene in a matter of minutes. Even though Amber’s family, members of the community, and the authorities searched frantically for Amber, they were unable to locate her in time. Stranger abductions are extremely rare and difficult to solve, as there is usually little information to go on.

Unfortunately, forensics are of little help in this case. When Amber’s body was found, she was naked except for one sock, and the running water in the creek washed away critical forensic evidence. Mike Simonds, the investigative sergeant who was in charge of Amber’s case at the time, explained, “There had been a very large storm and Amber was not only in water but in running water in a creek bed, so there had been a tremendous amount of water flow over her body which obviously made it hard in terms of trace evidence.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if Amber’s killer has committed similar crimes. Although it’s unlikely, I hope he’s already in prison and just hasn’t been linked yet to Amber’s murder due to the absence of forensic evidence.

Amber Hagerman

Photo of murder victim Amber Hagerman
Source: Star Telegram

AMBER Alert Program

No doubt many of you have already heard of the AMBER Alert Program. But did you realize it was named after Amber Hagerman?

After Amber’s murder, Diana Simone, a Fort Worth mother who had never met Amber, contacted a local radio station. She questioned why broadcasters sent out severe weather warnings but did not alert the public when a child was abducted.

Perhaps if the community had known Amber had been abducted and was aware of the suspect and vehicle description, Amber could have been located before she was killed. The idea snowballed, and, at Diana’s request, became what is now known as the AMBER Alert Program.

The program is currently being used in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Indian country, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 22 other countries. And according to the AMBER Alert Program’s website, as of November 2017, the system has resulted in the successful recovery of 897 children.

Donna Williams, Amber’s mother, has called the implementation of the AMBER Alert Program “bittersweet.” Donna cannot help but wonder, “What would have happened if we would have had the alert when Amber went missing? Could it have helped bring her back to me?” Although Donna is thankful for every missing child that the system assists in locating, it sadly brings her no closer to finding her daughter’s murderer.

Donna Williams, Amber Hagerman’s mother

Photo of Donna Williams at her daughter's shrine
Source: Yahoo News

Who do you think killed Amber?

Roughly 8000 leads in Amber’s case have been investigated. And despite the hard work of nearly 50 police officers and federal agents, Amber’s case remains unsolved.

The police, however, refuse to give up on finding Amber’s killer. They insist that “someone out there has knowledge that will aid in bringing closure to Amber’s family and our community.”

Anyone with information about Amber’s murder is asked to contact Detective Ben Lopez at 817-459-5373. There is a $10,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and Grand Jury indictment of the suspect. Tipsters can also remain anonymous by contacting Tarrant County Crime Stoppers at 817-469-TIPS.

Related reading, viewing, and listening

Amber Hagerman Documentary – created by WFAA

Amber Hagerman and the AMBER Alert SystemOnce Upon a Crime podcast

Interested in unsolved child murders? Check out the murder of Jane and Cathryn Johnson and the mysterious slaying of Kelly Cook.

Liked it? Take a second to support Christine on Patreon!
Published inTrue CrimeUnsolved Murder Files

Archives

35 Comments

  1. Grace Patterson Grace Patterson

    This is such a tragic and extremely sad case. Was just wondering if they had a sex offender registry in 1996 for pedophiles. Seems to me also that this would not have been his first victim. I sure hope that this family and friends get the restitution they so rightly deserve. Taking the innocents and life of a small child is the worst of the worst! The Amber Alert system has saved may victims of crime and, thank God it is in place now. I hope this scum bag is rotting away in some institution or better yet, non existent anymore. Love and prayers for the family in hopes they find the answers they so rightly deserve!

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Grace. I’m not sure if the state had a sex offender registry at the time, but I suspect that they would have and that the police checked. As you mentioned, this case is tremendously difficult. I can’t even imagine what Amber’s loved ones and the community as a whole went through. Every time I see an AMBERalert, I think about Amber and hope that her case is somehow solved one day. Thanks for reading and commenting, and may you have a wonderful week!

  2. Whoever this person was that took Amber…must have her helmet in his truck..
    If she had on her bicycle helmet that is…

    • Christine Christine

      Great point! I hope the police considered that. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

    • Glenn Glenn

      Arlington did not pass the helmet ordinance until 1997.

    • Umm Mary Rose San Pedro maybe she and her brother were not wearing helmens if that was the case by the way I’m 9 YEARS OLD!!!!!!

  3. Angela Shelton Angela Shelton

    My brother lived in the same apartment complex that she was found in. He drove a dark colored pickup and wasn’t a very nice person, as he molested and beat me and my sister up when we were younger for years. Soon after Amber was found he had just broken up with his girlfriend, sold his truck and moved to Florida. My mom has contacted investigators but not sure if they have followed up and tried to talk to my brother. This is very concerning to me, and would like for someone to take this seriously and investigate him. Me and mom never put all this together at the time. My sister also was “snatched” up by my brother when she was younger and he threw her in the vehicle.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Angela, Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your personal story and concerns. My heart goes out to you and your sister, and I’m so sorry you had to live through those terrible experiences. I hope that the authorities questioned your brother! But if you feel up to it, I’d suggest reaching out to the cold case team and passing on the information again. Every day I wish that Amber and her loved ones can get some justice. All the very best to you and yours ~ Christine

    • Erika Erika

      To Angela,
      Maybe this information will help, if you suspect something always contact the authorities.
      If you have information on an unsolved homicide case or need assistance in this area, please contact Sergeant Brian Jones at 817-459-5772. Information may also be provided to the unit by using the following link: Brian.Jones@arlingtontx.gov. If you wish to remain anonymous and possibly receive a reward up to $1,250 please call Tarrant County Crime Stoppers at 817-469-8477.

    • Please go n visit the authorities or so and so crime branch people and tell then to investigate your brother bcoz you never know what’s hiding in this case , you really need to contact the authorities if u really suspect your brother bcoz I saw your comment and it’s so much connected with the case I hope this helps with finding out ambers killer 🙏

  4. Angela Shelton Angela Shelton

    I don’t know if they ever questioned him or not. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. Thank you so much for your time!!

    • Christine Christine

      Will do! Thanks again, Angela.

    • Gina Hansen Gina Hansen

      Dear Angela,
      I read your post and it seems that you want to help determine if in fact your brother is connected to this Cold Case of Amber Hagerman. I just learned about this little’s girl terrible fate today! (Jan 16th, 2019). Could you share what has happened to your brother? Also, has anybody reached out to you in regards to all the info you posted?
      very concerned
      very upset,
      Gina Hansen
      from Gardena, CA

      • Angela Shelton Angela Shelton

        My mom reached out to investigators but nobody ever contacted me. As for my brother…i couldn’t tell you ANYTHING about him for he’s not “in” the family anymore.

        • Clayton Clayton

          Angela,
          Do you have any other information about your brother that you would be willing to pass along? I might be able to help pass information along to APD since I am in law enforcement myself. I don’t work for APD but know many people since I work in a neighboring city. Thank you, Clayton

  5. Oh,I know evey time u get a AMBER alert I think about her to and how bad her family and community feel for the poor little girl Amber…………… Also if this was fake I would totally believe it but I know it’s not fake and why would he even take the little girl after all he probably didn’t even know the girl……….Like thus stuff is just messed up seriously he didn’t half to do that he chose to do it he knew it was wrong so why’d he decide to do it anyway?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Karlie Karlie

    The police could of done a 10 mile radius search for white or hispanic 25-40 year old men with blue or black trucks and then interigated them, if they didn’t do that already.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Karlie. Definitely! I sure hope they did. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

  7. Kelly Kelly

    Anyone notice how her and jane cook look similar and so does the guys description. Yeah I get it different places but still that’s kind of strange.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Kelly. Thanks for reading. I’m not familiar with the Jane Cook case, but thanks for sharing your insight. You never know what could be connected.

  8. Amber Williams Amber Williams

    Look at the Jennifer Schuett’s case. It’s unbelievably similar and they caught him.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Amber. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ll definitely check out the Schuett case. Thanks again.

  9. Morgan Morgan

    Try checking the bike you never know the murderer might have touched the bike

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Morgan. Thanks for reading and commenting. That’s a great observation. I sure as heck hope the authorities did that!

  10. Kevin Villatoro Kevin Villatoro

    I feel like they should give life sentences to these scumbags that decide to do this to poor innocent children. I think if the U.S. already had AMBER alert or if more people in the neighborhood knew what was going on, this tragedy would maybe never have happened. God bless Amber and her family. I hope she’s in a better place now and hopefully the number of these tragedies will decrease as the years go by and the technology we have nowadays will give people more information about what they should do in these situations. Thank you and god bless.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Kevin. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts. Here’s hoping one day Amber’s family can have at least some sense of closure. Thanks again and take care.

  11. NAME IS PRIVATE NAME IS PRIVATE

    Though the story of Amber Hagerman is both tragic and depressing, if it weren’t for her unfortunate abduction, the AMBER Alert system would not be in progress today. A little girl, even though she may not know it, lost her life in order to help save many others. #GODBLESSAMBER

    Btw is it bad that I’m only reading this text (though with great interest) because I have a project on it? XD

    • Christine Christine

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. I agree that at least one small glimmer of good came from this tragedy. Although I’m sure that it is no consolation at all to her loved ones. All the best on your project!

  12. My mother has already contacted the investigators and nothing has happened. 😓

  13. Feel free to message me Clayton and i can give you all the info i do have in him.
    Angie

    • Clayton Clayton

      Angela,
      I cannot get the messenger to work. Can you please e-mail me at thewolf946@yahoo.com Thank you, Clayton

  14. Sad thing is, so called investigator’s have to care first. We cannot do there job for them. They had 23 years that solve this murder and have been sitting on their hands this whole time

  15. Bill Bill

    Today, we take instant communication for granted. In early 1996, the situation was very different. When I first read this account, I wondered why the witness didn’t try to see where the truck was going as he dialed 9-1-1.

    After a moment, I realized that most people didn’t have cell phones back in 1996. The era of the big device that was carried in a bag was ending, but cell phones weren’t the do-everything convenience that they are today. Criminals had learned to do a “phone clone” on any phone outside its normal service area, and the carriers were just starting to find ways to make phones secure from that fraud. The witness had to make a choice. He could delay his call to the police while he tried to look where the truck was going or he could go into his house and call immediately. In today’s world of righteous indignation about everything, I’m sure some people would criticize his choice, but I don’t blame the witness for calling the police first.

    Instant communication is also a reason why the Amber Alert system of today can be more effective than what they had in the mid-90’s. We expect a notice on our phones to be personal in some way, so we look and pay attention. A radio broadcast of that time didn’t draw the same attention level from most people. A tornado warning would be heeded because people were already seeing threatening skies. No one really believed that we would face a nuclear attack in the 90’s, so no one would pay attention to an emergency broadcast alert as they would have in the 50’s and 60’s. Terrorism coming to our streets and even mass shootings were still not common enough to draw people’s attention to an emergency radio broadcast. If something broke into the radio broadcast, people would listen long enough to know whether the president had been shot. If he hadn’t, people went back to what they were doing.

    I guess a few “active” billboards were in the early stages of development then, but we didn’t have a system that was capable of putting a description or picture on billboards or text displays along every major highway. Even if law enforcement had put out the information immediately, we didn’t have the technology that would have brought the information to people’s attention.

    I’ve never looked at this case before today, and the usual questions are worth asking.

    How was the kidnapper dressed? Was he dressed as a blue-collar worker, a farm worker, a retail casual worker, or more of a white-collar worker? Was his hair thick or thin? How was his hair cut? I assume that he didn’t have facial hair because no one mentions that, but that’s still a detail worth mentioning. This kind of information could narrow down who might have taken the victim.

    What is the description of the truck beyond being dark blue or black? Was the truck old or new? Was the truck clean or dirty? Was the truck a big truck like a more typical work truck or was the truck a small truck? The four-door trucks of today weren’t as common then, but trucks with some kind of half door into a cab weren’t uncommon. Did the truck appear to have any kind of cab or extra door into the cab? Did the truck appear to have any kind of equipment in the bed? What was the make of the truck? Not all machinists are into trucks, but many are. I’d expect the witness to have been able to give more details, and I’m surprised that the details haven’t become a significant part of the search for the kidnapper.

    One of your links mentions a laundromat in the area and most of the people at the laundromat as being illegal aliens. While many people who come to the U.S. illegally are decent people trying to improve their situation by going to a place where wages are higher, the criminal element has always been a part of this population. Some of the people coming north were (and are) bringing drugs and other illegal items. Rape or at least coerced sexual contact has always been a part of the trips north into this country. Some of these people really do see things differently.

    Knowing that the parking lot was near where many of these people were, I wouldn’t be surprised if the perpetrator were an illegal immigrant. That doesn’t mean that I blame other illegal immigrants for what happened. The killer may have been a guy that everyone feared anyway. For people who felt that life was a desperate struggle just for survival, going to the police with suspicions wouldn’t be worth the risk.

    While the country is full of natural born citizens who know out-of-the-way places where they could keep a victim for two days before killing her, hiding would also be a regular part of the illegal alien lifestyle. Groups of the worst of these invaders would gravitate to one another and know hiding places together. Even if not all of them would approve of killing a little girl, the members of this little group may have been guilty of various other crimes. Victimizing strangers just wouldn’t touch their hearts. If one of them kept a little girl for a day or two and then she disappeared, the rest wouldn’t be likely to say anything.

    In that part of the country, Mexicans were always hauling old vehicles towards Mexico back then. I can remember driving I-10 in Louisiana and seeing small convoys of them. Each one would be driving one ratty old pickup truck and towing another. I don’t mean this to be negative towards them. I’m sure almost all of them were good folks making the best of life and making use of things that had little value in the USA.

    If the killer had connections to this community, he could have done a halfway job of sanding and priming the truck when the description hit the media. He could have done something to change the appearance in a distinguishing way. For instance, if the truck had a major dent in a fender, he could have pounded out the dent. If the truck didn’t have a dent, he could have added one. If the bumper were bent, he could have traded it for one that wasn’t bent or vice-versa.

    Of course, if the truck were relatively new and clean, then making these kinds of changes wouldn’t be as easy. I assume that the police worked with the witness quite a bit to develop a more detailed description of the truck. I’m not saying that they were wrong for not releasing the more detailed description. All of those things probably work both ways. A newer and cleaner truck might suggest someone of greater means and possibly someone who was stable in a community somewhere and would have a steady enough job to afford a nicer truck.

    If the guy was an illegal immigrant or a drifter of any kind, he could have done the crime and taken a bus to another part of the country never to be seen again. If he were an illegal immigrant, he could have gone back to Mexico. I wish they could solve this case, but I’m doubtful.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Bill. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts. I agree that in this age of instant communication, the AMBER Alert system can make much more of a difference. Sometimes I think technology is a pain, but there is some good that comes out of it. There are definitely lots of questions about the suspect and vehicle, and I wish we had more answers. In my research, I saw nothing at all that suggested that the crime may have been committed by an illegal immigrant. This case has long troubled me…in Amber’s name so many cases are solved, and yet the case that “started it all” remains unsolved. I hope that one day her loved ones can have some sense of closure. Even more, I naively hope one day we can live in a world where we don’t even need an AMBER Alert system at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2019 The True Crime Files. All Rights Reserved.

Don’t miss a case! Subscribe to The TCF Newsletter to receive an article roundup, true crime news, and special offers.

 





Pin It on Pinterest