In memory of Amber Hagerman

In memory of Amber Rene Hagerman
November 25, 1986 – January 17, 1996
(1)


January 13, 1996

Amber Hagerman and her younger brother were riding their bikes in Arlington. A man in a black pickup truck approached. He grabbed her from the bike, put her into his truck, and drove away. What started as a kidnapping investigation turned into a search for a murderer. Amber’s body was found a few days later in a nearby creek bed. She was nine years old. 

Amber Hagerman – Missing Flyer (APD, 1996)

25 years later

Twenty-five years later, the abduction and murder remain unsolved for the Arlington Police Department. “Over the years, police have received more than 7,000 tips. Other cold cases continue to get tips, but not to the extent of Amber’s. Police remain optimistic. They have DNA evidence that could someday — when the technology is there — lead to a breakthrough.” (source The Dallas Morning News, 2021)

All large cities have crime, and Arlington is no exception. But when it happens close to home, it affects you more. The crime occurred less than 15 miles from where I lived.

I was 12 years when it happened; Amber was nine. Amber was born in the same year as my younger brother. She could have easily been my younger sister or a neighborhood friend. I sometimes think, what if it had happened to my family? Or what if it happened to me?

I never knew Amber. All we have in common is that we’re both from Arlington and were close to the same age. But I’ve heard her name and seen her picture so often; I feel like I knew her.

Amber is buried at Moore Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Arlington. Her headstone has the children’s bedtime prayer: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord my soul to keep.

Amber Hagerman gravesite

I don’t envy any family that has to go through something like this. I imagine the anniversary is tough every year, and the time in-between probably isn’t much easier.

While Amber’s case was a tragedy, something positive came from it. It led to the Amber Alert.


Amber Alert

Amber’s case soon led to a system for notifying the local area of abducted children. Local media and law enforcement partnered, hoping to spread the word and receive tips or leads. Time is of the essence, and the first few hours after an abduction are crucial.

The local program in Dallas / Fort Worth led to a statewide initiative. In 2002, Texas Governor Rick Perry created the state’s AMBER Alert network. “Since then, the Texas Department of Public Safety has activated 251 Amber Alerts, which resulted in the safe recovery of 263 people. Some alerts are for multiple missing children at once.” (source The Dallas Morning News, 2021)

The statewide program grew into a national one. In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the AMBER Alert into law. While named for Amber Hagerman, AMBER stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.”

In addition to the United States, thirty countries have also adopted similar notification programs. 

According to amberalert.ojp.gov, “as of December 2020, 1,029 children have been successfully recovered through the AMBER Alert system.”

It’s a bittersweet statistic that continues Amber’s legacy.

Sometimes it takes darkness to see the light. Even in death, a young life can continue to have an impact.


Author’s Note

(1) Amber’s headstone has the date of death as January 17. Other sources list it as January 15. 


Resources

Amber Alert.ojp.gov – About Amber Alert, accessed January 14, 2021. https://amberalert.ojp.gov/about 

Charles Scudder and Dana Branham. (2021, January 12). 25 years after Amber Hagerman’s kidnapping, here’s why detectives stay hopeful for a breakthrough in her case. The Dallas Morning News. Accessed January 14, 2021.  https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2021/01/13/25-years-after-amber-hagermans-kidnapping-heres-why-detectives-stay-hopeful-for-a-breakthrough-in-her-case/

[APD “Missing” flyer for Amber Hagerman, 1996], photograph, 1996; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth176326/: accessed January 14, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Arlington Public Library.


Post and photos by Jason S. Sullivan, 01-15-21 (unless otherwise noted)

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