Amber Hagerman's abduction on this date in 1996 became one of the most sensational, most-covered crimes in the annals of Tarrant County after her body was found four days later. It also likely has had more national impact than any other Tarrant County crime in modern history. In this installment of Famous Crimes, staff writer Nathaniel Jones takes a look at the case and its legacy of child protection.
-- Lance Murray
Just last July, Arlington police received what they thought could have been the biggest break in the case.
Authorities in Washington state contacted Arlington police about similarities between the unsolved Amber Hagerman slaying to the investigation of Terapon Adhahn, 42, who is accused of violently raping two girls and killing at least one other.
Though Adhahn had family in the Fort Worth area, police have been unable to link him to Hagerman’s death. Hagerman’s case remains unsolved.
On Jan. 13, 1996, Amber rode off on her bike from her grandparents’ central Arlington home.
At some point, a man took the 9-year-old from the bike and into what police believe was a black pickup truck. Hagerman was found dead four days later on the bank of a north Arlington creek east of Texas 360 and north of Green Oaks Boulevard Northeast.
Her throat had been slashed. She wore only a sock on her right foot.
Arlington police Sgt. Mark Simpson, right, who retired last year, lead the Amber Hagerman Task Force, which conducted one of the city’s most intensely scrutinized murder investigations that included thousands of leads searching for a suspect.
Police continue to search for her killer.
The Amber plan
Hagerman’s abduction and death led to the nationwide Amber Alert broadcast system, which authorities say has resulted in more than 200 children being returned to their families.
The Association of Radio Mangaers in 1997 created the program in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in memory of Hagerman.
The thought behind the Amber plan was that a search would begin before an abductor could hurt the child.
The program went national when President Bush signed it into law in 2003.
When to use the Amber Alert
The Amber plan, which initially was to aid children in danger, has been used cases that were not emergency incidents. That has sparked debate about when to use Amber Alert. Under the current criteria, police must answer five questions before they can call for an Amber Alert:
Is this child 17 or younger?
Does the law enforcement agency believe that the child has been abducted?
Is there reason to believe that the victim is in danger of serious bodily harm or death?
Has an investigation eliminated alternative explanations for the missing child?
Is there sufficient information to disseminate to the public that could assist in locating the child, the suspect or the vehicle used in the abduction?
-- Nathaniel Jones