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Crime News Missing Persons

How Amber Hagerman’s Unsolved Murder Led To The Creation Of The Amber Alert

In 1996, Amber Hagerman was kidnapped while riding her bike in Arlington, Texas. Though her murder case remains unsolved, it led to the creation of the Amber Alert system.

By Cydney Contreras
Tips On How To Report A Missing Child

Every so often, a loud noise will emit from people's phones, indicating that a child has gone missing in the area. The alert, known as an Amber Alert, will include details about the child’s appearance, and maybe even a description of the suspect’s vehicle, in the hopes of locating the child before it’s too late.

This alert system originated in Texas in 1996, eventually expanding to 50 states and leading to the recovery of more than 1,000 missing children, according to the Department of Justice

But when Amber Hagerman went missing on Jan. 13, 1996 in Arlington, Tex., there was no such system of this kind yet. So, while police knew that Amber had reportedly been taken by a man driving a black pickup truck, there was little for them to do but search the surrounding area and hope that she’d be found safely.

Eventually, Amber’s remains were found in a stream of water four days later. An autopsy later determined she died of stab wounds to the neck.

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To this day, the case remains unsolved

Diana Simone, a resident in Fort Worth, recalled watching the news coverage surrounding Amber’s disappearance in an interview for Peacock’s “Amber: The Girl Behind the Alert.” 

Diana remembered calling a Fort-Worth radio station with the idea of broadcasting details about a missing child’s disappearance, as well as the suspect’s vehicle, so that those driving could take part in the search, too.

A photo of Amber Hagerman in Amber: The Girl Behind The Alert

Eventually, this idea was turned into the Amber Alert, which stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. 

The alert was used for the first time in 1998, when Rae-Leigh Bradbury was abducted by her babysitter. As her mother, Patricia Sokolowski, recalled in “Amber: The Girl Behind The Alert,” an Amber alert was sent out the same evening and shortly thereafter, a driver called in to report that he had seen the babysitter on a local highway.

“That’s her!” the driver said in 911 audio played in the documentary. “I can’t believe it.”

The next day, Patricia and baby Rae-Leigh were reunited. 

“That was awesome,” Amber’s mom, Donna Williams, said. “Me and my mom kind of looked up at heaven and said, ‘You did it, girl!’”

Since then, Donna has continued to advocate for the Amber Alert system, which has now been adopted in all 50 states. 

To learn more about the investigation into Amber’s murder and the implementation of the Amber Alert System, watch “Amber: The Girl Behind the Alert” on Peacock.