ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Police have not given up on solving the 1996 murder of a 9-year-old girl who was snatched as she rode her bicycle in a case that led to the creation of a voluntary child abduction advisory system in all 50 states, known simply as the Amber Alert.
Thursday was the 15th anniversary of the disappearance of Amber Hagerman of Arlington.
Detective Ben Lopez, who was a patrolman at the time the girl was reported missing, says he thinks about the case every day and does not dismiss any possible clue.
"That's why any lead, no matter how small, is important. It may seem like nothing, but it could be the key to solving the case," said Lopez.
In a rare move, rival radio and television stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area joined forces to broadcast alerts in an effort to locate Amber, last seen alive on Jan. 13. 1996. Her body was discovered several days later in a drainage ditch. The girl's throat had been cut.
Relatives and family friends of the victim planned to gather Thursday night at the parking lot of an abandoned grocery store where Amber was last seen on her bike.
Amber's mother, Donna Norris, says if the alert system saves one child, that proves it works. Her mourning continues.
"I miss her hugs and kisses," said Norris.
So far police have received about 6,800 leads.
A man was seen pulling a girl, believed to be Amber, into his truck, then driving away, leaving behind her bicycle, said Lopez. The witness was too far away to get the vehicle's license plate number.
The Justice Department describers the Amber Alert system as a voluntary partnership between law enforcement, broadcasters, transportation agencies and the wireless industry to activate an urgent bulletin in the "most serious child-abduction cases."
"We just wish that there was something like that in effect when Amber was taken," said Amber's grandmother, Glenda Whitson. "She might have come home."