Police have vowed to never give up hunting the killer of a nine-year-old girl whose abduction and murder in Texas 20 years ago led to the creation of the Amber Alert system.
Little Amber Hagerman was taken while riding her bicycle outside an abandoned Winn-Dixie grocery store on January 13, 1996, two decades ago to the day Wednesday.
She and her brother were playing in the shop’s parking lot when a man snatched her off her bike and drove away with her in a black pickup truck.
“I didn’t quite understand what was going on,” her brother, Ricky Hagerman, now 25, said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“I just knew my sister was taken from us. She was my best friend, like a second mother,” Hagerman said.
Amber was found dead with her throat cut four days later in a drainage ditch a few miles away, officials said. Police have never publicly said if she had been sexually assaulted.
Her murder gave rise to the AMBER Alert System, or “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response,” America’s child abduction alert system.
The system began in Dallas-Fort Worth when broadcasters teamed with local police to develop the protocol, according to its website.
Nearly 800 missing or abducted children have been saved as a result of the system named in honor of a little girl who is still in need of justice.
Though investigators have combed through 8,000 tips that poured in about the heinous crime to no avail, they said on Tuesday that they will continue to work the case until Amber’s killer is found.
“Detectives come and go. Some have passed away, some have retired. But someone will always be here to carry Amber’s banner,” Lt. Mike Hollier told the press conference.
“We absolutely believe that this case will be solved,” said Hollier, a 26-year veteran of the Arlington police force.
Amber’s family joined law enforcement officials to call on anyone who might know what happened to their daughter and sister to come forward.
“My main thing is for everyone to remember Amber, and remember the sacrifice that she had to endure. Amber desperately needs justice,” said her mother, Donna Norris, who said she knew her daughter would be proud of the alerts.
“She was always another mommy to all my children,” Norris said. “But I also want people to remember Amber—she had to sacrifice her life for the Amber Alert”
Anyone with information is asked to call Arlington police at 817-459-5373. Anonymous tips can be submitted to Tarrant County Crime Stoppers at 817-469-TIPS.