I remember clearly the morning after Amber Hagerman was abducted from her bicycle two decades ago. While a lot of people may not know about the case that lead to the creation of the Amber Alert, the abduction and murder of the nine year old girl who led to it’s creation happened in my hometown.
She was riding her bicycle with her younger brother in an abandoned grocery store parking lot when a man driving a black pick up truck abducted her. A witness to the abduction immediately called the police, but with no system to notify the public that a child abduction had taken place, precious time was lost.
Amber’s body was found a few days later. Her killed never was.
I remember coming out of my room that morning and my parents were talking about Amber being abducted. Now in my school Amber was a ridiculously popular name and at first I thought they were talking about one of my friends. Panic gripped me as I wondered which Amber it was. Turns out it was an Amber I had never met. Yet she left an imprint on my life.
After she was abducted, everyone wore pink ribbons in the hope that she would be returned safely. And when her body was found, we wore them in her memory and the hope that her killer would be caught and brought to justice. Before she was abducted, parents let their kids walk to the local elementary school alone. After she was abducted, our parents didn’t let us go anywhere alone.
In my classes where a teacher had us discuss current events, information about the police attempting to hunt down potential witnesses came up. No one else ever came forward. I know people wonder how a case can go cold so quickly, but it’s still a big world, and sometimes people who have evil intentions have all the luck.
After Amber was abducted we would spot her mother at various community gatherings. Whenever a murder of a child happened and the mother was under suspicion (such as the Darlie Routier case) my mom would always compare them to Amber’s mother, stating how after her daughter was murdered she barely looked like she could stand up.
I hope there is a break in the case. However, considering that whoever did this was not likely to stop at just murdering one little girl, I feel the perpetrator has either left the city, is in jail for another crime, or dead. There was another abduction that happened several years after Amber’s where the perp was caught, but police stated they have ruled him out as a the perp for the Hagerman case. I still wonder. Both girls were abducted in view of family members, with a man physically getting out of a vehicle to drag them into it. I would love to know on what basis they ruled him out as a possible perp for Hagerman’s murder.
This is one of those cases that, 20 years later, continues to haunt. You can feel of pain of Amber’s family. I can’t imagine going through life wanting two things that no one can give, her daughter back, and since that isn’t going to happen, the perp brought to justice as a distant second. I still remember the feeling of camaraderie that came with wearing the pink ribbons. And it fueled the stranger danger hysteria that gripped my mom.
Yet with every year that passes, the trail gets colder. People who might have known something will start to die off, and even if they do come forward, their memories of the event grow less and less reliable the more time passes. Evidence that could led to the killer degrades. The killer himself could possibly be dead.
I hope a break happens, and soon.