January 19th, 2011
10:00 AM ET

An AC360° Cold Case: Nine-year-old girl's murder still unsolved

Ismael Estrada
AC360° Producer

(CNN) - Ricky Hagerman sits on a bench staring at a tree planted in memory of his big sister Amber who was brutally murdered 15 years ago. The words “Amber” and “Angel” are spray painted on a wall directly below the tree, the very spot where his sister was last seen alive.

“I love her and miss her very much and hope one day justice will be brought to her,” says Hagerman who, at 5-years-old, was the last person with his 9-year-old sister before she was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered in January of 1996 in Arlington, Texas. The killer has never been caught.

In Hagerman’s only interview, he stands at the spot where he was last with his big sister, a loading dock of an abandoned grocery store where he and Amber enjoyed riding their bikes up and down the ramps leading to rear entrance of the store. Their grandparents lived only a few blocks away.

Ricky decided to head back, his sister wanted to stay a little longer.

“I went back by myself and my grandfather said, where is your sister?” said Hagerman who rode his bike back to get his sister. “I came back to get her and she was nowhere to be found.”

A neighbor, who could see the ramps where the children were riding their bikes from his backyard, called police. He reported witnessing a man driving away in a pickup truck after grabbing Amber Hagerman off of her bicycle.

Ricky went to get his grandfather and returned to the ramps to look for Amber when they noticed police arriving.

“We see the police and the bike and my grandfather said, where’s my granddaughter?” said Hagerman. “The cop said there’s been a child taken from here.”

Though only 5 years of age at the time, Ricky lives that moment over and over in his mind. He still feels a sense of guilt for leaving his big sister behind.

Their mother Donna Norris, who was at the grandparents’ home at the time of the abduction, says when she was told her daughter was missing, she completely fell apart.

“I ran toward where she was abducted,” said Norris. “I was screaming, hoping she would answer me, but she never did.”

A massive search ensued. A local television station had coincidentally taken video of Amber just weeks before the abduction while doing a story on single mothers. The video was played on local television stations in hopes that someone would remember seeing Amber.

Four days after her daughter disappeared, Donna Norris’ worst nightmare became a reality. Two miles from where she was abducted, a man walking his dog near a creek spotted Amber’s lifeless body lying in the creek. Police say her throat was cut and she had been sexually molested. The medical examiner’s office said her killer had kept her alive for at least two days.

“It was just crazy, I was screaming and crying,” said Norris. “I was in disbelief, my daughter, she’s not dead!”

The search was on for Hagerman’s killer. Tips and leads were coming in to the Arlington Police Department, but nothing ever materialized. To this day, the brutal murderer has not been found.

“Somebody had to see something and they’ve just not come forward with that information and I don’t understand why,” said Norris who has not only continued to search for her daughter’s killer, but has also taken steps to help other children who have been abducted.

The federal “Amber Alert” program is named in honor of Amber Hagerman. The voluntary partnership program between law enforcement agencies and broadcasters in child abduction cases is credited for the rescue of hundreds of children throughout the United States.

Still, 15 years later, Ricky Hagerman has no idea who killed his sister. He wonders if the person is in prison on another crime, dead or wandering the streets a free man.

“I just have no idea who did this, none,” said Hagerman. He also wonders if an Amber Alert program had been in place when his sister was abducted, would she be alive today? If so, Amber Hagerman would be 24 years old.

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Ismael Estrada
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Samantha

    How terribly sad. How her mother and brother have suffered all these years with no justice. Sick and crazy adult men are usually the ones who commit these crimes against women/children. Why? Because they are angry, perverted, abused themselves or mentally unstable, etc. God help them!

    January 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  2. Jo

    Something so sick and violent, she couldn't, and wouldn't have been his only victim. When they find him, I hope a few others may be solved.

    January 19, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  3. LindaLee

    I moved to Arlington, TX from New England shortly after Amber went missing and had an incident happen to me that I reported to the police and they never checked my story and I always think about what if they did....

    I was in my complex and was walking my pitbull. I got nervous because a black large pickup truck with very dark tinted windows started to follow me thru the complex but would not pass me.... my dog turned and started to growl and the person, (who I could not see but a shadow image) revved his engine and put on his high beams. It was a stand off it seemed. I got upset and started yelling over and over.... show yourself, show yourself and cursing and whatnot. Now thinking back it was stupid to do... The person then backed up the pickup and tried to hit me and took off. Later that night a description of the truck that took Amber was eerily similar to the truck I saw so I called the police and gave the few numbers off the plate that I remembered. They said thank you but that was it.

    But every time I hear about Amber, I think of that day and how if the cops would have come to see the area I lived and comb the neighborhood that they may have found him to ask some questions or even find Amber.... it was just too odd and I've lived in bad neighborhoods and just have a gut feeling inside it was him....

    I pray they get more leads...... thanks for letting me share

    January 19, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  4. ReneeS

    Somebody knows something. Someone even besides the killer. I hope it eats them alive until they finally come forward.

    January 19, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  5. Richard from tyrone, pa

    These people who commit these crimes should suffer a thousand deaths!

    January 19, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  6. steve

    that beautiful angel.
    I am a peace loving man, but I honestly believe I could kill the person who did this to that child.

    January 19, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  7. Mo

    I don't get it?? wasn't there DNA evidence?? Maybe not back then they could track it; but they can NOW?? Trace the DNA in the offender database right??

    January 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  8. Chris

    Such a sad story, as a father of 2 beautiful girls, I am dumbfounded on how/why someone can do something like this.

    January 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  9. susan

    I pray the family gets closure. I also hopes the killer gets his just reward.

    January 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  10. lata

    I hope that coward culprit rots in helll and suffer thru his life...has no courage to come forward and admit his crime.. god only know how many murders he must have commmitted since that poor girl's death...RIP Amber. Hoping one day the justice will be done to u:

    January 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  11. Jeff Wilson

    Also have to give credit to Sherriff Dee Anderson who was the Arlington Police spokeman at the time of Amber's death for the development of the Amber Alert. It was Dee Anderson that suggested a city wide alert system in Dallas.

    January 19, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  12. izzy

    this is sooooo sad

    January 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  13. Jim

    From what I've heard, the type of person who would commit that kind of a crime is likely to re-offend, so he's probably dead or in jail by now.

    January 19, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  14. Wjeri

    CNN may as well just to advertising on the back of milk cartons.

    January 19, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  15. Michael Joe Jones

    What's pathetic is the idiot who witnessed the abduction didn't have the guts to chase after the complete waste of a human being who abducted and murdered Amber. Grow a pair, whoever you were...that's on YOUR conscience.

    January 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm |