The Amber Alert: The Sad Story Behind the Famous Kidnapping

“Why did you get my little girl? " "Who are you?". "Why did you terrify my baby?" These are questions that have hammered Donna Whitson's head for 23 years, as well as the question: How can anyone disappear out of nowhere?

According to the National Center for Missing Children, about 800, 000 children are reported missing each year in the United States. There are more than two thousand a day. Of these, approximately 115 are cases of kidnapping by strangers.

On January 13, 1996, 9-year-old Amber Rene Hagerman entered statistics and literally led to the Amber Alert, changing the United States and then other parts of the world.

The last ride

(Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch / Reproduction)

That hot Saturday afternoon in Arlington, Texas, Amber Hagerman and his 5-year-old younger brother Ricky went to visit their grandparents, accompanied by their mother, Donna Whitson. Once there, the two children took their bicycles, as they always did, and drove to the abandoned parking lot of the Winn-Dixie Store, a few blocks from the house and famous for bringing together many children from the neighborhood. The place had always been considered a leisure environment for those who lived nearby.

At one point, Ricky got tired of the joke and decided to leave, but Amber insisted and ended up even without his brother. Donna remembers questioning her younger son about where her sister was as soon as he came home, sending him back to pick her up the moment he found out that he had left her alone there.

Ten minutes later, however, by the time Ricky reached the parking lot, Amber had already disappeared.

The empty bike

(Source: Troab / Playback)

Ricky hurried back to the house and warned his parents and grandparents that Amber was no longer there. Quickly, everyone mobilized, got into their respective cars and went around the neighborhood looking for the girl. Until then, they only believed that she had gone beyond the parking lot, but that was fine.

With the car, the children's grandfather, Jimmie, checked the places where the girl used to roam around the house. And as he approached the old parking lot and saw the amount of police officers, he soon concluded that something was not right.

Before Jimmie found his abandoned granddaughter's bike at the place, then-retired 78-year-old Jim Kevil from his backyard across the street witnessed the kidnapping.

Amber pedaled up and down on her own when a black pickup truck broke into the parking lot and her kidnapper jumped out of it. Jim described him as a tall man, about six feet tall, white and between 25 and 40 years old. He grabbed the girl, who started screaming and kicking him, carried her into the vehicle and sped off.

The action lasted less than two minutes and Jim called the police shortly afterwards, but as soon as they answered his call, they were unable to arrive in time to gather information and search for descriptions.

4 days missing

(Source: Toronto Sun / Reproduction)

In what was stated as the girl's official abduction situation, her family, relatives, friends and neighbors organized a task force to find her, contacting the FBI, spreading news in the newspapers and taking the case to local television programs. . Before long, more than 50 federal agents and police were on the streets behind a clue.

On January 17, 4 days after the disappearance, Amber Hagerman's body was found in a stream by a passerby's dog behind an apartment condo called Forest Hills, about five miles from where it was last seen.

Amber was naked except for a sock left on one of her feet. There were signs of sexual violence with multiple bruises and bruises on his body. The cause of his death was due to the various cuts made in his neck. According to the autopsy, Amber was kept alive for at least two days before being murdered and dumped at the bottom of the stream.

Investigator Mike Simonds, who handled the case, claimed that running water from the stream running through the girl's naked body, added to the storms of recent days, removed critical evidence that could be proficient.

Despite relentless search and worldwide mobilization, lack of information, sufficient evidence and witnesses, the motive for Amber's abduction and death has never been resolved, nor the whereabouts or identity of her killer. And the case eventually cooled in 1999.

The Amber Alert

(Source: Texas Public Radio / Playback)

Days after the girl's funeral and with the media already broadcasting internationally, a mother named Diana Simone, pitying and disgusted with all the tragedy, called a local Texas radio station and wondered why the government was sending so many weather warnings, but it did not notify the population with the same commitment when a child had been kidnapped. That perhaps if they knew immediate details, could contribute to the location of the children, and perhaps prevent more lives from having an outcome like Amber's.

With this woman's words echoed nationally, nine months later, America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response was created, an acronym by the name of Amber. The Amber Alert on child abduction is distributed through all media, including text messages and highway screens, so people can contribute to the immediate search.

In 23 years, the program has been joined in 50 states in the United States and in 22 other countries around the globe. According to the Justice Department, in the United States alone since 2009, 900 children have been rescued through Amber Alert.

In 2016, Diana Simone, in an interview about the lack of communication in Amber Hagerman's case, stated: "The problem was not people who didn't see them, the problem was that they didn't know what they were seeing."