Amber Hagerman murder mystery endures, 15 years later



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Posted on January 12, 2011 at 7:17 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 13 at 2:44 PM

ARLINGTON — Nine-year-old Amber Hagerman still smiles at her grandmother from her photos on the paneled living room wall.

Glenda Whitson smiles back.

"This one up here was taken at Christmas time," she said. "Before Amber was taken in January."

Before she was kidnapped on January 13, 1996.

Whitson lives in the same house on Highland Drive where her granddaughter rode away that day 15 years ago. She still talks to Amber's pictures.

"Wonder what she'd be like today?" she asked. "She'd be 24. Maybe been to college. Maybe be married by now."

Amber's body turned up in a north Arlington creek four days after she vanished. The killer slashed her throat.

"We're up to about 6,800 leads now," said Arlington detective Ben Lopez, adding that Arlington police still get three to four leads every month.

Several times, detectives have traveled to other states chasing clues. A few times they thought they were close to catching the killer.

"No matter how small the lead is, how insignificant it might seem, we work every lead, because you just don't know when it's going to be the right one," Lopez said.

Amber was riding her bike at a closed grocery store on Abram Street just a few blocks from her grandparents' home. The only witness to ever come forward said a white or Hispanic man pulled Amber off her bike and into a black pickup truck.

It's not much to go on.

Amber's mom made a tearful plea to the kidnapper: "Please bring this little girl. Just let my baby go."

Although her baby did not come home, others have, thanks to Amber Alerts now issued nationwide.

By some estimates, more than 500 kidnapped children have been returned because of the notification system.

Some critics question whether Amber Alerts really have made that big a difference, but it gives Glenda Whitson comfort to look at her granddaughter's picture and tell her she made a difference.

"I tell her I miss her and wish she was here," Whitson said, letting a tear fall off her cheek. "I tell her I'm proud of her for what she's done for other children."

Amber's family will hold a candlelight vigil on Thursday night at 7:30 behind the store where she was abducted.