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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.

Published inTrue CrimeUnsolved Murder Files

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24 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.

  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.

  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.

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