Two-year-old Amber was seated inside of the pick-up truck of her mother, Stephanie's live-in boyfriend, James "Britt" Britton Monroe in Dallas, Texas on December 26, 1983 at approximately 9:45 a.m. that morning. The truck was parked outside of McDonald's Grocery in the 800 block of Murdock Road, two blocks from their home.
Monroe says he went inside the store to purchase soft drinks & paper towels and left Amber in the truck alone for 2 to 5 minutes. When he returned, Amber had vanished and has not been seen since. Three weeks after her disappearance, police filed murder charges against Monroe in connection with Amber's case. There was evidence that Amber was abused before her disappearance; various people saw bruises on her.
Amber's mother, Stephanie Hughes (also known as Stephanie Crum or Stephanie Hughes Crum) initially told the police that Amber had been very cold, with her eyes open and unblinking, when she checked on her at 9:30 p.m. on Christmas night and she believed that she was dead; however, Stephanie subsequently recanted and said Amber was alive on Christmas night and that the police had pressured her into making her previous statement. Another witness said he spoke to Monroe on the phone on the morning of December 26, 1983 and heard Amber talking in the background.
A judge dismissed the charges against Monroe a short time later on grounds of insufficient evidence and they were never re-filed; although police said he gave inconsistent statements about the events leading up to Amber's disappearance and they didn't believe he disclosed everything he knew. Monroe maintains his innocence in Amber's case. He and Stephanie parted ways after Amber disappeared and Stephanie moved to Indiana.
Stephanie and Amber's father had separated in 1982 and their divorce was finalized on December 1, 1983. He was in Kentucky at the time and had never been very much a part of his daughter's life and was quickly ruled out as a suspect in her disappearance.
In 1986, investigators checked the fingerprints of a girl who was abandoned in California that same year. The girl matched Amber's general physical description and was about the right age, but their fingerprints did not match. In 2007, authorities announced they considered David Elliot Penton a person of interest in Amber's disappearance and in the disappearances and murders of several other young girls (including Angelica Maria Gandara and Ara Johnson).
Penton has been incarcerated in an Ohio prison since 1987. He also signed a plea agreement admitting to the murders of three girls in Texas. The Texas victims disappeared over a period of 18 months in the Dallas area, and they ranged in age from 4 to 9 years old. He was also convicted of manslaughter in the child abuse death of his own infant son in 1984; he fled while free on bond pending the outcome of his appeal and remained at large until 1987 when he was charged with the murder of a friend's 9-year-old niece in Ohio. He was later convicted of this crime.
Penton's cellmates went to investigators and claimed that he had implicated himself in the disappearances of Ara, Amber and Angelica, but he has not been charged in connection with any of these disappearances. As of 2020, all of the cases (including Amber's) remain unsolved.
Amber is described as a Caucasian female with blonde hair, blue eyes, with a height of 2'4, weighs 25 pounds and has pierced ears.
She was last seen wearing a lavender or purple-colored snow jacket, a hooded Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt, a light blue shirt, blue jeans and brown Earth shoes.