Murdered in Texas: The Case of Amber Hagerman

Amber  Hagerman was born November 25th 1986 to Donna Whitson and Richard Hagerman. The family resided in Arlington Texas and later gave Amber a brother named Ricky. The relationship between Donna and Ricky, who were never married, eventually went downhill and Donna was working hard as a single mother to get herself back on her feet. 

On January 13th 1996, Donna, Ricky, and Amber were visiting Donna’s parents Glenda and Jimmy Whitson. The plan was to do a little laundry and have a nice home cooked meal. Before dinner, 9 year old Amber and 5 year old Ricky wanted to have a little spin around the neighborhood on their bikes. This was something they’d done many times, and they knew the rules of the boundaries they weren’t allowed to cross. 

That particular day Amber decided to be a little adventurous and head past where she had her mother’s permission to go into the parking lot of a Winn Dixie grocery store so they could ride their bikes down the ramps of the loading dock. Ricky didn’t want to get into any trouble, so he turned and headed straight home to tattle on his big sister. 

Ricky pulled up to his grandparent’s home, alone on his bike and of course Donna said “where on earth is your sister?” But Grampa Jimmy said “Dinner is almost ready, let me go get her, be right back.” He hopped in his truck and drove swiftly over to the Winn Dixie. What he found when he got there was chill-inducing. 

Jimmy pulled into the parking lot to find a police officer who was talking with a man.. He said “excuse me officer, my granddaughter is riding her bike here, have you seen her?” Just beyond the officer lay Amber’s bike. And the man the officer was questioning was there giving a statement about the predator he had seen take her. 

The witness was a man named Jimmie Kivel who reported being in his yard and looking up to see a man in a truck reach out and snatch the little girl off the back of her bike. He said that Amber kicked, screamed, and fought to try to get away. In just 8 minutes from the time her brother left to the time her grandfather arrived, Amber was gone. 

The description is as follows: 

  • Suspect: White or Hispanic male in his 20s to 30s (as of 1996), who is under 6 feet tall, with a medium build, and has brown or black hair.
  • Vehicle: Black 1980s or 1990s full size, fleetside pickup truck, short wheelbase, single cab, the rear window was clear, no sliding window, no chrome (solid black in color), no striping, the truck was in good condition with no visible damage.

Though the investigation swung into action, there simply wasn’t a way to alert the public quickly and clearly to be on the lookout for this child or her abductor. Unfortunately, the story really didn’t begin to circulate for 7 hours after Amber was abducted. 

On January 17th, 1996, a man walking his dog discovered the body of a little girl in a creek bed just four miles from the Whitson home. It was Amber. She’d been kept alive for two days. She was beaten, she was sexually assaulted, and her throat was cut before her killer unceremoniously dumped her naked body. The creek had washed away almost any hope for evidence. 

To this day, the only prevailing theory is stranger abduction, which is historically the hardest kind of murder to solve. This year was the 25th anniversary of Amber’s tragic abduction and murder and with renewed hope, Arlington police say DNA advances may be able to help with a conviction. In fact, the very same rookie patrol officer who responded to Amber’s kidnapping is now the Sergeant in charge of this investigation, stating that for him it’s personal. 

Though her mother’s determination has saved so many lives, she deserves the closure that comes with a conviction. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for Donna to lay awake at night and be faced with “why my baby?” 

I heard a clip from a report on Donna where one month after her daughter’s murder, she went into Amber’s classroom for a talk on safety with her peers. Her strength blew my mind because I ugly sobbed through the entire recording. Listening to her break down what had happened in child-like terms, so that Amber’s REAL friends could understand better… then listening to the kids recount what they loved about Amber, trying to comfort her. There couldn’t have been a dry eye in the house. 

If anyone has any information, please call Arlington, Texas police at 817-575-8823. For those who wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers of Tarrant County at 817-469-TIPS (8477

This was a violent, vicious crime against a child and it is probable that he has committed more crimes in a similar vein. The entire world should not rest until this case is closed. Not just for Amber, but for Donna.

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