25 years ago, on January 13, 1996, officers responded to a kidnapping call in the 1600 Block of E. Abram Street, in Arlington, Texas and what happened days later, changed a family and police department lives forever.
During the search and four days later, sadness struck when 9 yr. old, Amber Hagerman’s body was found in a drainage culvert near the 2900 block of Forest Hollow Lane. Many officers still work there who responded that fateful day to the store parking lot and the stormy night when she was found.
A neighbor who witnessed the abduction called the police, and Amber’s younger brother Ricky went home to tell his mother and grandparents what happened. On hearing the news, Hagerman’s father, Richard, called Marc Klaas, whose daughter, Polly, had been abducted and murdered in Petaluma, California, on October 1, 1993.
Richard, and Amber’s mother, Donna Whitson (now Donna Norris), called the news media and the FBI and they and their neighbors began searching for Amber. Four days after her abduction, near midnight, Amber’s body was discovered in a creek behind an apartment complex with severe laceration wounds to her neck and naked. The site of her discovery was less than five miles (8 km) from where she was abducted.
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Amber Hagerman case, the Arlington Police Department and members of Amber’s family held a news conference to make a renewed plea to the community for information on her abduction. The department also announced that it plans to submit pieces of physical evidence for additional testing later this year, in hopes that brand new advances in technology can help produce a DNA profile of the killer(s).
A month after Amber Hagerman was abducted and found murdered, her mother, Donna Williams, went to her daughter’s elementary school in Arlington, Texas for the dedication of a new playground in Amber’s name and to console her classmates who didn’t understand why she had to die.
Her eyes shot to Amber’s empty desk and the “Amber Museum” that Mrs. Walter’s third-grade class had decorated with pink hearts and ribbons and a large framed class photo of their blue-eyed brunette friend.
But sensing her pain, the children instead tried to comfort Amber’s mother and raised their hands – “I always wanted to play with her,” “I liked her a lot,” “She’s really pretty,” “She was nice” – and they shyly asked her about some things they’d been wondering.
“What time did she leave on her bike?” one boy asked. “At 3:10 Saturday afternoon; she was abducted at 3:18,” Williams said, trying to soften the jarring facts in a gentle voice. “It just took eight minutes,” she said, stroking a girl’s hair in the first row. “So you guys stay close to home, okay?”
Williams’ long journey through grief and healing, including her visit to Amber’s school, was captured on film in a moving WFAA-TV documentary, “After Amber”.
Her murder also inspired the creation of AMBER Alerts which so far have directly led to the safe recovery of 1,029 abducted children.
Anyone with information on the abduction and murder of Amber Hagerman is asked to call Arlington police detectives at 817-575-8823.
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