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AMBER Alert Awareness Day and the Texas case that started it all

Many people know what an AMBER Alert is, however, not many know it all started with a case 26 years ago in Arlington. That case remains unsolved to this day.

TEXAS, USA — January 13 is known around the country as National AMBER Alert Awareness Day. While many people know what an AMBER Alert is, they don't always know the details about the case that started it all.

AMBER stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. The alert system was inspired by Amber Hagerman, who was just 9 years old when she was kidnapped while riding her bike in an Arlington parking lot on January 13, 1996. Four days later, her body was found less than four miles from where she went missing.

Her killer remains unknown.

Within the first year of Amber's case, investigators said they had nearly 6,000 leads. Twenty-six years later, more than 7,000 leads have been investigated. In 2021, on the 25th anniversary of Amber's abduction, investigators released new photos in the hopes it would spark new information.

Amber's case led one Arlington woman, Diane Simone, to reach out to the media. She wanted to know why there wasn't a way for people to be alerted that a child had been abducted. That's when the development for the national AMBER Alert system began to take place.

According to the Amber Alert Network Brazos Valley, to date, 1,085 children have been safely recovered due to the AMBER Alert system.

READ DETAILS ABOUT AMBER'S CASE: New photos released in Texas abduction case that created the AMBER Alert system

Criteria in meeting an AMBER Alert

Not every missing child case will trigger an AMBER Alert. There are criteria that the case must meet in order to issue an alert. According to the Department of Justice, in order to issue an AMBER Alert, the following criteria must be considered:

  • There is reasonable belief by law enforcement an abduction has taken place
  • Law enforcement believes the child is in danger of serious bodily injury or death
  • There is adequate descriptive information about the victim and the abduction
  • The abduction is of a child 17 years old or younger
  • The child's name, critical data and the Child Abduction flag have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system
Credit: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Donna Willams, Amber's mother, spoke on the 25th anniversary of her daughter's abduction. While Amber's case remains unsolved, Williams said her daughter's legacy lives on in the lives of the children who have been saved with the AMBER Alert System.

"She didn't die in vain," Williams said of her daughter. "She's still helping take care of our children and I'm proud of everything she'd done for our children here."

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