FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – It will be 15 years ago Thursday that Amber Hagerman was kidnapped near her Arlington home.
On January 13, 1996, the nine-year-old went for a bike ride behind a grocery store. A neighbor later heard her scream and saw a man pull her off her bike, throw her in his pickup and drive away.
“She kind of became Arlington’s own child at that time. And I’ll tell ya it galvanized that city in a way that you wouldn’t have thought a large city could be,” said Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson, who at the time Amber went missing was the spokesperson for the Arlington Police Department.
Amber’s body was found in a drainage ditch four days after she vanished, only three miles from the store. Police say her throat was slashed and she had been sexually assaulted.
While Amber’s killer has never been caught, the AMBER Alert system, which is designed to help recover missing or abducted children, was later developed and named in her honor. AMBER stands for America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response.
The Amber Alert is a series of public warnings through radio, television, cell phones and even state highway postings that detail the disappearance of children. To date, the AMBER Alert program has been credited with the safe recovery of more than 500 children.
In an effort to reach more people faster, on Wednesday Facebook announced that it has teamed up with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to create AMBER Alert pages when a child is abducted.
Facebook users can receive posts on their news feed when an AMBER alert is issued in their area. Facebook has set up a page for each state, as well as for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.
Sheriff Anderson says Amber didn’t die in vain, because of the Amber Plan. “It [her murder] was tough for all of us. I think we all still bear the scars of it and I don’t think they’ll ever go away.”
An estimated 800,000 children are reported missing each year.