College students to investigate Amber Hagerman case

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by By SCOTT GOLDSTEIN / The Dallas Morning News sgoldstein@dallasnews.com

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:46 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 11:52 AM

A group of Atlanta college students is launching a yearlong investigation into the 1996 Arlington kidnapping and murder of Amber Hagerman.

An official with Bauder College's Cold Case Investigative Research Institute is scheduled today to join the mother of the child for whom the Amber Alert was named to announce the organization's effort.

"We're going to work it for a year," said Sheryl McCollum, director of the institute. "They're going to do a timeline. They're going to look at cases that are similar within the area or in other states."

Students from the small Atlanta college volunteer their time with the institute, which also includes students from Auburn University Montgomery, Falkner University and Griffin Technical College. Most of the students are studying criminal justice.

The organization has looked at other high-profile murder cases, including the killing of Washington intern Chandra Levy.

A local 14-year-old comic book writer is also dedicating his latest book to resolving the case. Jake Tinsley is partnering with the institute to bring attention to the killing and to educate children on the Amber Alert and general safety tips. His father, Ben Tinsley, wrote about the Amber Hagerman case for several newspapers.

Jake and McCollum will join Amber's mother, Donna Norris, to speak about the efforts at Norris' Hurst home at 4 p.m. today.

Amber Hagerman was 9 when she was abducted on Jan. 13, 1996, while riding her bike outside her grandparents' east central Arlington home. Witnesses told police they saw a man force her into his black pickup and speed away.

She was found dead in a nearby creek bed days later.

A law enforcement task force in the case was disbanded after tracking thousands of leads. The killer was never captured.

Her death sparked the creation of the Amber Alert, a child abduction alert system, that has since expanded nationwide and helped in recovering hundreds of children.

Arlington police spokesman Lt. Blake Miller said the department has always considered solving the case a priority.

"Amber Hagerman and her case have always been very important to the Police Department and to the community," Miller said. "Our detectives continue to work it as a case."

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